HC Deb 13 February 1947 vol 433 cc537-42
Mr. Churchill

May I ask the acting Leader of the House if he will tell us the Business for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)

Yes, Sir. The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 17th February— Report and Third Reading of the Civic Restaurants Bill.

Tuesday, i8th February—Committee stage of Navy and Army Supplementary Estimates, 1946–47, and of Civil Supplementary Estimates, beginning with Law Charges.

Wednesday, 19th February—Second Reading of the Forestry Bill [Lords] until about 6 p.m.; Committee stage of the Supplementary Estimates for the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Home Office, the Ministry of Education, and other outstanding Votes.

Thursday, 20th February—Committee and remaining stages of the Polish Resettlement Bill, Isle of Man Harbours Bill [Lords], and Naval Forces (Enforcement of Maintenance Liabilities) Bill.

Friday, 21st February—Second Reading of the Air Navigation Bill [Lords] and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Mr. Stokes

Will my right hon. Friend say whether an opportunity will be given before the Foreign Secretary goes to Moscow for a Debate in this House on policy in Germany, as distinct from administration? We have had no Debate on policy since the Potsdam Agreement, and, in the opinion of many hon. Members, it is about time that such a Debate took place.

Mr. Greenwood

I thought it was the wish of the House that, before my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary left for Moscow, there should be a Debate on foreign affairs, but I cannot promise to compartmentalise it that way.

Mr. Churchill

Am I right in understanding that the Prime Minister is going to make a short statement on the fuel situation, and might I ask the acting Leader of the House whether we can be given an undertaking—perhaps the Prime Minister will give it in his statement—that he will keep us informed of the position from time to time, during the period of this special tension and crisis?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

indicated assent.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

May I ask when the Government are likely to make a statement on Palestine?

Mr. Greenwood

I hope that a statement on Palestine may be made in the course of next week, but is very difficult to say at the moment when.

Mr. Stanley

Is it the intention to provide an opportunity for a Debate?

Mr. Greenwood

Yes, Sir. I think that I gave that pledge last week, or the week before. Certainly there will be such an opportunity, and, if it should be necessary to rearrange the Business of the House, I am quite prepared to consider that

Mr. Ellis Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing interest in the economic position of the country—[Hon. MEMBERS. "Oh"]—due to generations of neglect—and, if so, will he, between now and when we debate the White Paper, consider the advisability of allocating at least three days to this matter, so that hon. Members may devote sufficient time to it?

Mr. Greenwood

I really cannot give a pledge to my hon. Friend at this moment as to the number of days we shall give to that Debate. Of course, the undertaking which was given, that we would discuss the White Paper when published, still holds, but that can be discussed only later through the usual channels.

Mr. Churchill

Does the acting Leader of the House remember that I did press that, when the economic Debate took place, we should have a three-day discussion? I thought that that might be a means by which we could avoid the moving of a direct Vote of Censure, and that we could move a reasoned Amendment instead. Will the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, consider our request for a three-day Debate on that subject? I hope that the Debate will not take place until some little time has elapsed after the publication of the White Paper, and that our request for a three-day Debate will stand.

Mr. Greenwood

With regard to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I remember the statement he made, and I remember thanking him for trying to save Government time, for which we are very grateful. I have not closed my mind to three days but, as I have said, I do not want to give an undertaking for a three-day Debate at this stage. However, I can give the assurance that there will be ample time for discussion between the publication of the White Paper and the Debate. I might inform the House that I hope the White Paper will be in the hands of Members by the end of next week.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Will the acting Leader of the House try to find time for a Debate on the universities, in view of the publication of the Barlow Report, the Parliamentary and Scientific Reports, the changed circumstances of students, and the implications of the welcome increase of grants by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Greenwood

I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman in this matter, but I would have thought that was a subject which could quite appropriately have been dealt with on one of the Supply days.

Colonel Ropner

With regard to the Business for next Wednesday, the Forestry Bill is very important even if it is short, and 2½ hours to debate a Bill of that nature seems a very short allocation of time. May I ask if there has been any arrangement through the normal channels for the Debate to be finished at 6 o'clock? Do the Government propose to move the Closure even if the number of Members desirous of speaking show that the Debate should be continued considerably longer?

Mr. Greenwood

I had not heard any objections to this course, and I think the hon. Gentleman is probably wrong, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. The discussion on the Forestry Bill from the House of Lords will be narrow and, so far as I can see, there cannot be a very wide Debate involving the whole field of forestry. I would have thought that about 6 o'clock would have been ample, but I am prepared to discuss through the usual channels an alteration of the time. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite feel that that time is inadequate we will certainly try to readjust it, but my impression is that the Debate may be so narrow that we might finish it in 2½ or 3 hours.

Captain Petal

In view of the fact that on Wednesday the time for a Debate on education will be limited, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the possibility at some later stage of a Debate on education from a wider point of view than was referred to by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay)?

Mr. Greenwood

The Debate next Wednesday arises on a Supplementary Estimate and concerns a very narrow field of education. The appropriate time for a wider Debate would be a Supply day.

Captain John Crowder

Would the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Prime Minister on the advisability of suspending for a week or two the sittings of Standing Committees upstairs where, I understand, 12 Ministers are engaged, so that they can be in their Departments at this very vital time to deal with the fuel crisis?

Mr. Greenwood

I am very grateful for the sympathy which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has shown for Ministers, but I can hold out no hope of a suspension of Standing Committees.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Could the right hon. Gentleman now give an answer to the question which was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) a fortnight ago, on what the Government propose to do to simplify and solve the hopeless tangle in which Scottish Business is at present, owing to these Committees all sitting at the same time? It is a very vital point from the point of view of Scotland.

Mr. Greenwood

This is not a new tangle. It is a very ancient one. During the last 25 years I have heard on many occasions this question raised about the overworked condition of Scottish Members who must attend their own Standing Committees and who are naturally interested in attending other Committees. If they have to work overtime it is very difficult, but there can be no solution to that problem so long as Members serve on more than one Committee, as indeed they must.

Mr. Churchill

If a Scottish Member is on two or three Committees, he cannot be in two or three places at the same time. He is not a bird.

Mr. Greenwood

No Member, as far as I know, is ever asked to attend three Committees at the same time.

Mr. Churchill

How can he attend two at the same time?

Mr. Greenwood

The only persons aggrieved in this connection are those Scottish Members who are likely to be interested in questions other than Scottish questions. They agree to serve on these Committees, and it is for them to settle in their consciences which meeting they should attend at a time when two or three are sitting.

Mr. Sparks

Is my right hon. Friend able to grant time for an early discussion upon the housing programme for 1947? I think he will remember that last week he rather hinted there would be a possibility of an early Debate on that subject.

Mr. Greenwood

At this stage in the Session, one must fall back on utilising Supply days for purposes of this kind, and there can be an early Supply day to debate the housing situation. If that should be so, we would be delighted to accept any challenge that might be made.

Mr. Speaker

I know it is very difficult because hon. Members have to ask many questions, but it should be remembered that we are really concerned with the Business for next week. Many of these questions which hon. Members are now asking concern the Business for the whole of this Session.

Mr. Pickthorn

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's last answer but, I think, six in reply to the question that was asked by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) about a Debate on university education, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman upon what Supply day he thinks that would be appropriate; and, secondly, whether he does not think we ought to consider very carefully the constitutional disadvantages there might be of discussing university questions on a Supply day?

Mr. Greenwood

No, indeed not. Supply days can hardly be used for legislation. The appropriate occasion would be on the Treasury Vote.

Mr. J. Hudson

With regard to the Business for Monday of next week, does not the acting Leader of the House agree that to expect to get the Report stage and the Third Reading of the Civic Restaurants, Bill is asking a very great deal, in view of the great amount of controversy in the country on that question? Is he taking into account the fact that the discussion on Monday will be of a more important character than usual, as the Government are flying directly in the teeth of the position already taken by the majority of one of the Committees of the House?

Mr. Greenwood

I should think it would be quite reasonable for the House to dispose of the Report stage and the Third Reading of the Civic Restaurants Bill in a day. So far as I understand, there is only one point of controversy outstanding. People's views are perfectly clear about it, and I would not have thought that we need spend more than a normal working day on the remaining stages of this Bill