HC Deb 13 March 1947 vol 434 cc1490-5
Mr. Eden

May I ask the acting Leader of the House the Business for next week?

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 17th March.—It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on first going into Committee of Supply on the Air Estimates, 1947–48, and Committee stage of Votes A 1, 7 and 8;

Tuesday, 18th March.—It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on first going into Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates and the Committee stage of Votes A 1 2, 3, 4, 10 and 13;

Wednesday, 19th March.—Supply (2nd Allotted Day), Report stage of the Civil Vote on Account, when a Debate will arise on the distribution of manpower;

Thursday, 20th March—Supply (3rd Allotted Day), Report stage of the Navy, Army, and Air Estimates, 1947–48;

Friday, 21st March—Committee and remaining stages of the Isle of Man Harbours Bill [Lords], the Naval Forces (Enforcement of Maintenance Liabilities) Bill; and Motion to approve the War Damage (Increase of Value Payments) Order, 1947; and Second Reading of the Public Offices (Site) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Mr. Eden

May I ask, in connection with Thursday's Business, whether, in view of the fact that the defence debate we were promised did not take place, the acting Leader of the House would table a Motion on which we could have such a Debate on Thursday? If he is unable to agree to that, I suggest that the Report stage of the Service Estimates down for Thursday should be taken formally, and we could then proceed to debate a Motion which might be in similar terms to that which was put down before.

Mr. Greenwood

It is not uncommon for Report stages of Estimates to be taken formally, so that Debates on wider issues may arise. I am perfectly ready to fall in with the suggestion that we should put down a Motion, so that, if the Report stage were taken formally, the Debate the right hon. Gentleman wishes could arise.

Mr. Scollan

I want to raise a question of which I have given you notice, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

That will come after the Questions on Business, and the statement of the Home Secretary.

Mr. Warbey

How could an opportunity be provided for a Debate on the proposed transference to, or sharing with, the United States of America of certain British commitments and responsibilities in Greece? I take it that hon. Members are aware of the deep implications for our foreign and military policy of President Truman's statement. I feel that we ought to have an opportunity to discuss the matter.

Mr. Greenwood

I hear from the people who have seen some of the earlier evening papers, which I have not had time to see myself, about some statement having been made. [HON. MEMBERS: "The morning papers."] The only immediate way in which that could arise would be on a Supply day. Before Easter there is no other way in which time could be provided.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

May I ask, in relation to next week's Business, whether there is any likelihood of having implementation of the statement that was made to the House that, if necessary, the House should be adjourned to allow hon. Members to attend Committees upstairs, if they were of sufficient importance; or, on the other hand, that the Committees should be adjourned in order that hon. Members could attend Debates in the House? That promise was given on 7th November last, I think. We have two Committees—those concerned with the Town and Country Planning Bill and the Transport Bill—which are now to sit in the afternoons, and that will preclude those of us who belong to those Committees, and who are interested in the Army Estimates, from being present at the Debate on the Army Estimates.

Mr. Greenwood

As far as I am aware I gave no guarantee. I did point out the difficulty there would be, especially for Scottish Members who serve on two Committees. But that, unfortunately, cannot be avoided. [HON. MEMBERS: "It can.") I think I said only about a fortnight ago that responsibility must lie on hon. Members, whether they feel that the Standing Committee is more important than the, House, or the House more important than the Standing Committee. In any event, I did say that we should be prepared to guide the Committees, so that they could avoid sitting in the afternoons when questions of high political importance, or of military or economic importance, were to be debated in the House.

Mr. Speaker

I must point out that the Guillotine Motion was decided by the House, and we cannot go back on that decision of the House now. There is no question of any promise. It has been the subject of a vote.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

There was a guarantee given by the Lord President of the Council that a Minister could ask for the Adjournment of the House in order that Committee work could be done upstairs. It has nothing to do with Scottish Members. It is the fact that there are to be two Committees sitting on two afternoons next week when there is important Business on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Did we not understand the acting Leader of the House to say when he asked that the Supplementary Estimates of the Foreign Office should be taken formally at the beginning of the week, that on the Report stage of the Estimates the question of Greece would be discussed?

Mr. Greenwood

This was an arrangement I made with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), that we should take the Committee stage formally, and have a Debate on the Report stage tomorrow. Whether the issues raised by my hon. Friend could be discussed or not is a question for the Chairman of Ways and Means to settle.

Mr. S. Silverman

But did not my right hon. Friend himself say on Monday, that Greece would be the subject of Debate on the Report stage of the Estimate tomorrow, subject to your Ruling, Sir?

Mrs. Middleton

Is my right hon. Friend convinced that the arrangements for the Business on Friday next week are such as to allow adequate discussion of the War Damage Commission Order?

Mr. Greenwood

I hope that will be so. The first two Orders on the Paper for Friday next week would not, I think, call for any long Debate; and I hope there will be substantial time for the Debate on war damage.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Is it not the fact that in the Second Reading Debate on the Town and Country Planning Bill the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a very important pronouncement linking compensation under that Bill with the Report of the War Damage Commission? Is it not important that we should have the fullest opportunity of a very full Debate on this Report on value payments? May I ask him if, in view of that widening of the scope, he is satisfied that the fag-end of a Friday is sufficient opportunity?

Mr. Greenwood

I am not suggesting the fag-end of a Friday. I am suggesting that the earlier Business should be almost formal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will be here to introduce his Order, and I hope there will be a proper Debate.

Mr. Benn Levy

Would my right hon. Friend clarify the position regarding Friday's Business, because the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) does really arise. I assure the House that, if our understanding of the position was correct, it was that Friday should be used for a Debate on Greece.

Mr. Greenwood

This is not a matter for me, really. The Supplementary Estimates which are to be taken, I understand, relate to Greece, and what I said was that, so far as we are concerned, we would not want to cripple that Debate, but how far it will go is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman said that, provided that other Business did not take an undue time, there would be sufficient time for a Debate on Greece, but I do not know how the business will go.

Mr. Eden

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I do not think that is the position. There is a Supplementary Estimate down for British aid to Greece, and that Estimate I understood was to be debated. Naturally, I do not know what the Ruling of the Chair would be, but this Estimate is for British aid to Greece, and, therefore, not as wide as some hon. Members seem to think.

Mr. Erroll

Reverting to the Minister's reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan), does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, when the Army Estimates are considered, we shall be without the services of many of our colleagues who will be upstairs in Committee? They will be prevented from attending here when a Vote for £53 million and another for £43 million are being considered. How are they to judge which place they should be in?

Mr. Stephen

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, in regard to Committees meeting in the afternoon, that that has always happened?

Hon. Members


Mr. Pickthorn

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that, a fortnight ago, it was indicated that the questions asked in the foreign affairs Debate last week would be answered upon the Debate on the Estimate for British aid to Greece?

Mr. Greenwood

I do remember that.

Mr. S. Silverman

If it should turn out that the right hon. Gentleman opposite is correct, and that the Supplementary Estimate on which these affairs can be discussed tomorrow is too narrow, will the Leader of the House, in that event, find early time to discuss this matter in its full bearings?

Mr. Greenwood

I doubt, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether any question of Hungary, or whatever it is, can arise on an estimate for British aid to Greece. [HON. MEMBERS: "Turkey."] Well, Turkey. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] I can be heard if hon. Members will be quiet. If there was to be a strong demand about this, then, through the normal channels of Parliamentary arrangements, I should be prepared to discuss whether a date could be found, but, at the moment, obviously, I can give no undertaking.

Mr. Churchill

Is it not important to us to know whether the Debate on Friday will enable us to touch on the large topics introduced by the President of the United States or whether it is to be confined strictly to the aspect of British aid to Greece, as it was expected it would be, when the Motion was put down? Surely, we must know one way or another?

Mr. Greenwood

As my right hon. Friend has said, the Supplementary Estimate is about British aid to Greece, and it is for Mr. Speaker, and not for me, to decide.

Mr. Speaker

I have not yet looked at the Estimate, and, therefore, I do not know, but I strongly suspect that the view of the right hon. Gentleman is correct, and that it is a very narrow Estimate. After all, there are other opportunities for discussing the matter, and I think we had better get on with the Business.