HC Deb 22 March 1945 vol 409 cc999-1005
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

Having disposed of the Question on the delegation to the San Francisco Conference—which I addressed to the Prime Minister in all innocence and without malice aforethought—may I now ask the Leader of the House whether he will 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—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Local Authorities Loans Bill and to the Wages Councils Bill, which I understand are not likely to raise any serious controversy. Afterwards the Adjournment will be moved, in order to give an opportunity for a Debate on Supplies to Liberated Countries.

Wednesday—Committee stage of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill; Second Reading of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill, which, as the House will recall, is a formal stage.

On Thursday it is proposed to meet at II a.m. and Questions will be taken. Adjournment for the Easter Recess until Tuesday, 10th April.

Hon. Members

For how long are we sitting that day?

Mr. Eden

Until 5 o'clock. We shall have Questions for an hour.

As to the Budget date, it may be convenient if I inform the House now that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on Tuesday, 24th April.

I have one comment to make about the Business to-day and to-morrow and it is of a technical nature. It would be more convenient if the House would agree, for the Debate upon housing, which is to occupy two days, to take place on one stage of the Consolidated Fund Bill, namely, on the Second Reading. If the House would agree, we would adjourn the Debate on Second Reading to-night, and resume and conclude that Debate, still on the Second Reading, tomorrow, and then ask the House to agree to the Committee and the remaining stages of the Consolidated Bill being taken at the end of to-morrow's proceedings. This will require a Motion which I propose to move to-morrow. I hope the House will regard this course as agreeable.

Mr. Greenwood

On the last point raised by my right hon. Friend, I think that for the convenience of hon. Members and for the continuity of the Debate the procedure which has been suggested will be acceptable to the House. I think that must be so. There are two questions I should like to ask the Leader of the House. The discussion next Tuesday upon liberated Europe and supplies may create a good deal of interest. Will my right hon. Friend consider a limited extension of the time on that occasion? As to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), my right hon. Friend did agree, in answer to a Question last week, that before the San Francisco Conference took place there would be an opportunity for Debate. Could my right hon. Friend say anything about that now?

Mr. Eden

As to the time next Tuesday, I would like to consider that matter. I thought there would be enough time, but I will inquire again about that. As regards a Debate before the Delegation leaves for San Francisco, we hope to provide an opportunity for that—not before Easter, but after the Easter Recess.

Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson

Can my right hon. Friend now give any indication of when it may be possible to find time for the two Motions dealing with the subjects of Civil Service Pensions and Civil Service Superannuation standing in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Shute)?

[That the whole question of the counting of temporary service for Civil Service pensions should be referred to a Select Committee of the House.]

[That the case of the age-barred officers should be met and that superannuation practice in the Civil Service should be so amended as to preclude such cases arising in the future.]

Mr. Eden

I am sorry that I cannot. As my hon. and learned Friend knows, we have much Business to do before the Budget, and I am afraid I cannot give an undertaking.

Mr. Buchanan

With reference to the Debate to-day and to-morrow, could the Leader of the House say if there will be any Cabinet Ministers taking part in the Debate in addition to those already announced? It was stated that the Minister of Health, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Works were to speak. Is it proposed that the Prime Minister or any other Cabinet Minister should take part in that Debate? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that housing is possibly the most important human subject that this House can discuss, and that we are being allowed really only a day and a half? Will he consider extending the time for the Debate to-day, at least?

Mr. Eden

As regards to-day, as my hon. Friend knows from his familiarity with our proceedings, the Consolidated Fund Bill is exempted Business.

Mr. Buchanan

I thought the right hon. Gentleman said he was going to move some Motion about it.

Mr. Eden

No. All we are doing is asking the House to take the Second Reading to-day and to-morrow. As regards the Ministers who will take part, the Government do not propose any change.

Mr. Colegate

Further to the statement about next week's Business, in view of the demands for a Debate before our delegates go to San Fransciso and in view of the awkwardness of starting the Committee stage of the Requisitioned Land Bill on one day, could not the Leader of the House consider giving up Wednesday to the Debate on the San Francisco Delegation and let us start amending the Land Requisition Bill after Easter?

Mr. Eden

I could not do that. I want to get forward with that Bill.

Mr. Bevan

In view of the intense interest taken in the country in the housing question and of its enormous importance to our people at the present time, is it not intended that a Member of the War Cabinet should make a statement in the course of these two days' proceedings? As the Ministers who, it has been announced, are to take part have no direct influence upon high policy is it not desirable that in this very important matter a Member of the War Cabinet should make a statement?

The Prime Minister

I had considered whether I myself should take part, because I hold myself especially and in the first degree responsible for meeting this urgent need in relation to all our other urgent needs, but, on consideration, have decided that the matter will be adequately dealt with by the three Ministers—the Minister of Health, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Works—and they are empowered to speak with full authority on behalf of His Majesty's Government.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

With regard to Tuesday, is it contemplated that the Debate on food supplies to the liberated territories should be wide enough to enable the House to discuss the feeding standards of this country and of our Allies?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, the Debate will be on the Motion for the Adjournment, and I imagine that point will be covered.

Mr. Petherick

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, at San Francisco, it is intended to discuss trade matters, because if so these will include the question of Imperial trade? If that is the case could we have a Debate on Empire trade before the San Francisco Conference takes place?

Mr. Eden

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I can conceive of no circumstances in which, at the present time, Imperial Preference could possibly come up at San Francisco, nor, indeed, at Bretton Woods.

Mr. W. J. Brown

For three weeks the Leader of the House has told us that he was not in the position to say when we could have a Debate upon the Motions about the Civil Service already mentioned. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very hard cases are occurring day by day on which we can get no satisfaction from the Ministers of the Departments concerned, because they say it is a matter for the Treasury, and that until we can get this Debate the House is in no position to tell the Treasury what it thinks ought to be done? Could the right hon. Gentleman not, therefore, give us an early day, even if only half a day, after the House resumes after Easter?

Mr. Eden

My hon. Friend knows that there are occasions which hon. Members can seize for themselves, one of which occurs next week, if not much time is wanted. It rests with Mr. Speaker, of course, but conceivably that might be done.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask the Leader of the House to give his mind again to the Bretton Woods Conference? Is he aware that Mr. Morgenthau said that the United States Delegation at San Francisco will go there reinforced? They go with a decision about Bretton Woods. That being so, would it not be advisable that a discussion should take place in this House before our Delegation goes to San Francisoo, especially having regard to the equivocating answers which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given on this matter?

Mr. Eden

I do not accept the hon. Member's charge about "equivocating answers." That is simply another definition of an answer that he does not agree with. As I have said a great many times, there is no question of this Delegation going to any continuance of Bretton Woods until there has been a discussion here, and I have told my hon. Friend that the matter is not coming up at San Francisco, and if anybody ever thought of raising it I could promise him that I should refuse to discuss it.

Mr. Storey

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is intended to take the Second Reading of the Forestry Bill at an early date after Easter?

Mr. Eden

The Bill has only recently been presented.

Mr. Gallacher

In view of the fact that all the Members for Fife have been invited to go to Fife during the Recess and advise their constituents on the progress of the Scottish Education Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman not now tell us the date when that Bill is going to be introduced for Second Reading?

Mr. Eden

I thought the hon. Member was so pleased that the Bill has been introduced that he would now be anxious to have a little time to consider possible Amendments to it.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks

On the question of San Francisco, in view of the Foreign Secretary's statement in reply to a Question this week that it is hoped to agree the terms of a Charter at San Francisco, will the Leader of the House bear in mind the urgent necessity of a Debate at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Eden

Certainly, we shall have a Debate. Whether that takes place early or late before we go, does not seem to matter.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

In regard to San Francisco, in view of the large number of Parliamentary Secretaries who are attending there, and in order to maintain the highest degree of national unity and avoid criticism, is it the intention to appoint pro tem Parliamentary Secretaries?

Major C. S. Taylor

With, regard to Tuesday's Debate upon the liberated countries, may I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to open the Debate or that a Private Member should open the Debate?

Mr. Eden

I really do not think I am called upon to describe all that now, though it would be more convenient for the Minister to speak after one or two speeches had been made.