HC Deb 27 March 1947 vol 435 cc1405-12
Mr. Eden

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

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)

I should like to say first that I gathered last week that there was some apprehension with regard to the National Service Bill, which is to be taken next week. Having regard to the feelings of hon. Members, I came to the conclusion that two days ought to be given to the Second Reading, on the understanding that the other Business which it is essential that we should get, will be completed by Wednesday evening. The Business for next week will, therefore, be as follows:

Monday, 31st March—Second Reading of the National Service Bill and consideration of Lords Amendments to the Civic Restaurants Bill.

Tuesday, 1st April—Conclusion of the Debate on the Second Reading of the National Service Bill and Committee stage of the Money Resolution, and Committee and remaining stages of the Trafalgar Estates Bill.

Wednesday, 2nd April—Report and Third Reading of the Cotton (Centralised Buying) Bill.

On Thursday, 3rd April, it is proposed to meet at 11 a.m. Questions will be taken until 12 noon and then there will be the Motion for the Adjournment for the Easter Recess until Tuesday, 15th April.

During the week we shall ask the House to consider the Motion relating to the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Australia) Order, and it may be convenient for me to inform the House at this point, that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on the day we resume Tuesday, 15th April.

Mr. Eden

While we on this side of the House are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the consideration he has given to our representations about the length of time allowed for considering the question of compulsory service, may I ask him, for the convenience of the House, to tell us whether the intention is to take the Division on the Bill, should there be one, at 10 o'clock on Tuesday, or is it intended to sit late?

Mr. Greenwood

I have made a concession. I really did not think that this Bill needed two days, people's minds being made up about it. I imagine that the Division might conveniently take place at 10 o'clock on Tuesday night.

Captain John Crowder

Arising out of a question which I asked last Thursday, could the Lord Privy Seal say whether the Prime Minister intends to make a statement about domestic fuel cuts; and in any case could he arrange to allow the use of electricity between 9 a.m. and 12 noon and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sundays, when the factories are not working, as this would be a considerable help to the housewife?

Mr. Greenwood

My right hon. Friend proposes to make a statement later.

Mr. Clement Davies

With regard to the Business on Monday and Tuesday, would it be convenient for me to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have had an opportunity of looking at the Amendments which have been put down and for us to know now which you propose to select, if either?

Mr. Speaker

I have not given the matter much consideration yet, but so far as my consideration has gone I propose to take the direct Amendment, which is the simple one, to substitute "this day six months."

Mr. James Hudson

Does the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal envisage the possibility of any extension of time in connection with Monday's Business in view of the fact that on that day, in addition to the National Service Bill, he is putting down another very contentious Bill which is coming back from another place?

Mr. Greenwood

I was nursing the delusion that the Amendment coming from another place would be generally accepted by the House and I should have thought, in the circumstances, that we might finish at the normal time.

Mr. J. Hudson

The right hon. Gentleman nursed a similar delusion on an earlier occasion. I then pressed him for extra time which he thought was not necessary but he found by experience that it was, and in view of that will he not reconsider the matter?

Mr. Greenwood

I should be very unwise if I did not take the precaution of suspending the Rule on Monday to make sure of getting that Bill.

Sir Arnold Gridley

Mr. Speaker, may I bring to your notice a difficulty which confronts many hon. Members in carrying on their duty of discharging the Business of this House? There are certain Standing Committees sitting at the moment and a number of hon. Members have to attend more than one. Their difficulty is that when proceedings on a Tuesday finish at 1 o'clock there is no HANSARD report available until the following Thursday morning when the Vote Office opens. The result of that is that many of us who are quite unable to attend throughout the whole of the proceedings of more than one Committee, have no opportunity to bring ourselves up to date with regard to the discussions that have taken place. I have been asked on behalf of hon. Members who are very seriously inconvenienced in discharging their duties to ascertain from you whether it is not possible that HANSARD reports of proceedings of Standing Committees—if we are to continue to have so many Standing Committees—shall be available in time to enable hon. Members to study them.

Mr. Speaker

If I had known that the hon. Gentleman intended to raise this matter, I could have considered the report which I received yesterday from the Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports. I am sorry, because they have gone into the matter most thoroughly and have reported that these reporters are simply not available and that the thing cannot be done. Although I sympathise with hon. Members, quite frankly the Editor of the OFFICIAL REPORT and myself are at our wits' end to deal with this problem.

Mr. Eden

I do not think that anyone in any quarter of the House would wish to make any reflection on the reporters who have an extremely hard time to keep up with the work. But may I say to the acting Leader of the House that this is just another example of the position which arises when the Government try to force legislation through at this inordinate pace. In view of this, would he not consider whether he should not adjust the programme so that the House is not compelled to work under this heavy pressure, bearing in mind that the Government will have a heavy responsibility for the consequences of legislation passed in this fashion?

Mr. Greenwood

I hope that after Easter the position will be eased, but I would point out that there is a tendency on the part of hon. Members in Standing Committees to talk a little too long—[Interruption.]

Mr. Eden

May I ask the acting Leader of the House to explain that last extraordinary statement? It is not a question of how long people talk, but of having reports available of what has been said. Surely, while making every sympathetic excuse for those responsible technically, the Government should assist the House to have that ordinary facility which has lasted us through the centuries?

Mr. Greenwood

I have already said that I think that the situation will be eased after Easter, and that is the best that we can do in the circumstances. There will not be many more meetings before the Recess.

Earl Winterton

May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that some very interesting evidence was given before the Committee on Procedure about the question of reporting in this House. Is it really the attitude of the Government that the authorities of this House cannot produce sufficient reporters to have a report issued within 48 hours? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is a reflection upon the competence of the manner in which the report is carried on—not on the individual reporters, but on the Department responsible?

Mr. Greenwood

So far as I know, every possible step has been taken to obtain reporters, but there is an immense shortage of manpower in that service as in others.

Mr. Edward Evans

May I ask the acting Leader of the House when it is proposed to introduce the legislation promised by the Prime Minister on 27th January with regard to coast protection?

Mr. Greenwood

I remember my right hon. Friend's statement on 27th January, but there was no undertaking to introduce legislation this Session and I think it is quite clear that we shall not be able to do it now. The matter has been somewhat complicated by the unfortunate illness of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health but from our point of view the problem has been actively followed up, and if the hon. Gentleman will ask me again about it later, I may be able to give him a more satisfactory answer.

Commander Noble

As we understand that a statement is about to be made on domestic fuel cuts, may I ask the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that I was asked to withdraw my Question on the subject yesterday, why I was not given an opportunity to ask it again today?

The Prime Minister

I apologise to the hon. and gallant Member. There is no intention of any discourtesy. I think the intention was that he should be asked to put the Question again, and I hope he will have an opportunity of putting it when I make the statement.

Mr. Ralph Morley

Is it proposed to give time for a Debate on the Report of the Royal Commission on Equal Pay?

Mr. Greenwood

If my hon. Friend will put that question to the Leader of the House after Easter, we may be able to give some undertaking about it.

Mr. Nicholson

May I revert for a moment to the question of the reporters? I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the reporters in this House are not only being grossly overworked, but dangerously overworked? I have heard it said that many are working 60 hours a week. I do not think their health will stand it, and we may be faced with a serious crisis.

Mr. Bowles

At what time will the House rise on Thursday? Will it be at 5 o'clock?

Mr. Greenwood

As most of us know, the House can sit until 5 o'clock.

Mr. Collins

In view of the widespread anxiety on the subject of the sterling I balances, when is it hoped that time will f be found for a discussion on this question?

Mr. Greenwood

I wish hon. Members would deal with next week's Business. There are many occasions on which this 3 other matter can be raised.

Mr. Beverley Baxter

May I revert, not to the question of the reporters, but to the printing of HANSARD? In the case of a two-day Debate, those taking part in the second day naturally want to study, in full, the speeches made the day before, but HANSARD is unable to print after 10.30 p.m. or 11 o'clock. This does not involve the reporters at all. May I suggest that this is an example of impotence which is not a credit to the House, and that something should be done right away to alter the situation?

Mr. Speaker

We have been into that, and I am afraid it is a question of the staff at the Stationery Office, and they cannot turn HANSARD out any earlier.

Mr. Eden

I am sure the whole House feels it is unsatisfactory that we should not continue to have the facilities we have always enjoyed. Is it because the reporters are not available, or the money offered is not enough, or that they are already working too long, or what is it? Is there any way the Government can assist the House to get out of this intolerable position?

Mr. Speaker

I could have given some sort of answer if I had known this matter was going to be raised. I have received the Report of the Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports but I am afraid I have not got it here. My impression is that it is mainly a question of the shortage of reporters, and there is the difficulty in getting HANSARD printed. I think some of the reporting of Committees is done by an outside firm, and there again there is a shortage of reporters in outside firms. Coming back to the I question of printing, I quite agree it is a serious matter, and if only I could do something, I would.

Mr. Eden

Would it be convenient if I raised the matter on Monday?

Mr. Speaker

I shall be glad to look at this matter between now and Monday.

Earl Winterton

Can we have it made clear who is the authority responsible, and to whom any criticisms should be addressed? Is it the Government, the Lord Chamberlain's Department, or your Department, Mr. Speaker? It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. No one seems to know which is the Department responsible. Has the House any chance of criticising whoever is responsible?

Mr. Speaker

The House has a chance of criticising, because there is a Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports. They issue a report, and that Report is brought before the House. I have no doubt that this Report, which has been received, will be before the House very shortly.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

On Tuesday next, the National Service Bill is being discussed, which is a matter of immense importance to everyone. Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to implement the undertaking given by the Lord President of the Council, that when important matters are down to be discussed at the same time in the House and in a Committee upstairs, one or other should be adjourned? In this case, it is the Committees which should adjourn. It would not only implement the promise which was given, but would help the reporting staff as well.

Mr. Greenwood

There may be one or two Committees affected next Tuesday—I do not know. It is not a matter within my competence. I should have thought that those who are on the Committees might by discussion among themselves agree to an Adjournment, which would permit Members to attend an important Debate in the House. I cannot implement that promise myself.

Major Legge-Bourke

May I ask the Leader of the House whether His Majesty's Government intend to allow time for discussing the Motion, standing in my name and that of 70 Members of this House representing all shades of political opinion:

[That this House cannot but recognise the recent widespread flooding especially in the Fens as a national disaster and urges His Majesty's Government to treat it as such.] If time is to be allowed, is it the intention that a discussion is to take place as soon as possible after the Easter Recess?

Mr. Greenwood

I assume that we shall be working pretty heavily after Easter. If the hon. and gallant Member will put the question next week, I might be clearer then what will be the Business when we resume.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew

I should like to press the Leader of the House in regard to the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). When this procedure of sending so many Bills to Committees upstairs was introduced, the Sessional Order passed in November laid it down that the House would have two days' notice of adjournment, so that Committees could be properly manned upstairs. That was held out as an indication of how the procedure would work. The Committee of which I have the honour to be Chairman is meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and so, I believe, is the Committee on the Town and Country Planning Bill. As there will be not so many Committees after Easter, this is the occasion, I think, when the rule might be used.

Mr. Greenwood

That is going to be very difficult, in view of the time table. I am prepared to consider any reasonable proposals which might be made. I am very anxious that Members should not be deprived of an opportunity to attend big Debates in the House in which they are interested.