HC Deb 08 April 1948 vol 449 cc361-6
Mr. Churchill

May I ask the Leader of the House, the Lord President of the Council, whether he has any statement to make on the Business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

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

Monday and Tuesday, 12th and 13th April—Conclusion of the Debate on the Budget Resolutions and the Economic Situation. On Tuesday night, the Ways and Means Resolution on motor licences will be taken after ten o'clock. This has relationship to a statement about to be made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power.

Wednesday, 14th April—Report stage of the Criminal justice Bill.

Thursday, 15th April—Report stage of the Budget Resolutions. The House knows that is taken formally. Conclusion of the Report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Friday, 16th April—Third Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill until about one o'clock; afterwards, Second Reading of the Employment and Training Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

During the week it is hoped to take the Motion relating to India (Family Pension Funds).

Mr. Churchill

I understand we are possibly to have further discussion through the usual channels as to the fitting in of any Debate on the motor licences?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Churchill

May I also ask that the right hon. Gentleman should endeavour, as far as possible and subject to the general convenience of the House, to have the Division on the abolition of capital punishment, which I understand is to be left freely to the conscience of the House, to be taken at a reasonable hour so that the Debate can be reported fully?

Mr. Morrison

If I may say so, I think the right hon. Gentleman has made a very fair and reasonable point. This will be a decision of the gravest importance, not less important because it will be a free vote of the House; and if the House feels that it would be convenient, then I would suggest that the Government should agree to postpone Government new Clause s, which otherwise come first on Report, in order to take any question of the abolition of the death penalty first on Wednesday. In that case we might agree that a Division should take place about 8.30 or 9 o'clock in the evening. I hope that would meet the general convenience of the House.

Mr. Churchill

There is one other question to ask, about the Debate on foreign affairs. The right hon. Gentleman is considering how to fit that in. We require two days because great interest is taken on this matter, as the Motion on the Paper shows.

[That, in the opinion of this House, steps should now be taken, in consultation with the other members of the British Commonwealth, to create in Western Europe a political union strong enough to save European democracy and the values of Western civilisation, and a trading area large enough, with the Colonial Territories, to enable its component parts to achieve economic recovery and stability;

That for this purpose there should be an emergency policy designed to secure immediate and effective co-operation between the countries of Western Europe, and a long-term policy designed to bring into being a federation of Europe;

That the emergency policy should establish forthwith a Council of Western Europe consisting of representatives of the Governments of the sixteen participating countries in the European Recovery Plan, and Western Germany, to lay down the broad lines of common action; that the Council should have power to set up permanent international staffs to coordinate the social, economic and defence policies; that the first and most important task of the economic staff would be to frame concrete proposals for the stabilisation of the currencies of Western Europe, for the development of trade, for the execution of the European Recovery Plan, for a comprehensive production plan, including agriculture and the heavy industries, and for Colonial development; that the necessary staffs should act under the direction, and by the authority, of the Council of Western Europe, and should be in continuous session;

That the long-term policy should be to create a democratic federation of Europe, with a constitution based on the principles of common citizenship, political freedom, and representative government, including a charter of human rights; that such a federation should have defined powers with respect to such matters as external affairs, defence, currency, Customs and the planning of production, trade, power and transport; and that to achieve this objective, the Governments of the States of Western Europe should take steps to convene, as soon as practicable, a constituent assembly composed of representatives chosen by the Parliaments of the participating States, to frame a constitution for such a federation.]

Would it be possible to have that Debate the week after next, or the last week in April? I would like to know what the inclination of the Government is on this matter.

Mr. Morrison

We are anxious to meet the convenience of the House as a whole. I am in the difficulty that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has certain engagements, and if the right hon. Gentleman would be so good, I think it would be well if we discussed it through the usual channels, in which case we can consider the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman as well as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. John Paton

May I ask my right hon. Friend in regard to the Business on Wednesday, in view of the known desire of many hon. Members on both sides of the House to take part in this important Debate on capital punishment, could he not agree to give the whole evening and take the Division at 10 o'Clock as usual?

Mr. Morrison

I understood that there was a general agreement earlier with the Home Secretary that the period should be round about half a day. I think it is on record somewhere.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Not less than half a day.

Mr. Morrison

As my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) knows, the Government legislative programme has been put to some inconvenience recently. I am not unappreciative of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton), that it is a matter on which both sides must be heard and, having been heard, I think hon. Members must make their decisions for themselves. We are in a difficulty about the time-table and I would hope, therefore, that there should be general agreement that the conclusion might he reached on this at about 8.30 or 9, which would give us a reasonably adequate Debate.

Mr. Paton

May I make a suggestion which might be helpful? Would it be possible to have an extension of time to deal with the new Clauses which are to come up on that day?

Mr. Speaker

Sir Stanley Holmes.

Mr. Paton

May I have an answer?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that would not do; it would make the position rather worse than better.

Sir S. Holmes

Can the Leader of the House find time for a discussion of the Motion standing on the Order Paper in the names of the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) and other hon. Members?

["That this House notes with regret that although the Government is urging upon all sections of the community the need for increased production and reduced costs, no corresponding effort has been made to cut down the numbers employed in central and local government service with a view to making additional manpower available for production and reducing the excessive load of taxation and rates at present borne by the community; and is therefore of the opinion that an independent committee should be appointed to review the staffing and related expenditure of Government Departments and local authorities and to recommend such reductions as it thinks fit, from which review the salaries of Ministers and Members of Parliament should not be excluded."]

Mr. Morrison

I should not have thought there was any need for a Debate on a Motion about that as it seems to me in Order to raise that today or on Monday or Tuesday.

Mr. S. Silverman

May I say that many of us who signed the Amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill about the abolition of the death penalty are very appreciative of the Government's offer to waive their right to have their new Clauses taken first, in order to enable this matter to be dealt with earlier? I should have thought, speaking for myself, that five or five and a half hours would be sufficient for that discussion. I also ask the Leader of the House to appreciate that any time of the House for which I was responsible was between 12 and 3 a.m. and it did not, therefore, interfere with the Government's legislative programme.

Mr. Morrison

I will not cross swords with my hon. Friend about the last observation, but I am much obliged for his helpful attitude on his first observation, and I hope this good conduct will long continue.

Mr. Charles Williams

Who is it who has upset the Government's programme?

Mr. Scollan

Since the Government are going to leave this to a free vote of the House, are we not likely to prejudice the issue by applying the Guillotine?

Mr. Morrison

I have not said anything about the Guillotine. The Guillotine is a phrase meaning an Allocation of Time Order, and we are not using that. I should think it a little cynical to bring it in, in this connection.