HC Deb 12 February 1948 vol 447 cc574-8
Mr. Eden

Could the Leader of the House tell us the Business for next week?

Mr. H. Morrison

Yes, Sir. Monday, 16th February, and Tuesday, 17th February—Second Reading of the Representation of the People Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Wednesday, 18th February, and Thursday, 19th February—Report stage of the Local Government Bill.

Friday, 20th February—Second Reading of the Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Bill [Lords]; Committee stage of the Police Pensions Bill; further progress will be made with the Army and Air Force (Women's Service) Bill, if not already disposed of, and, if there is time, with the Water Bill [Lords].

During the week it is hoped to consider the Motions to approve the Brighton Corporation Act, 1931, Modification Order, 1947, and the Draft Foreign Service Order. 1948.

Mr. Stokes

In view of the fact that there is on the Order Paper no Motion to suspend the Rule today, has my right hon. Friend considered representations made to himself and the Chief Whip yesterday; and, in view of the fact that a very large number of the hon. Members wish to speak in the Debate, that apparently only about half-a-dozen back benchers will be called, and that we have had two days on the Gas Bill, which practically nobody except the Opposition wanted, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot suspend the Rule, will he bring pressure to bear on Front Bench speakers to occupy less time?

Mr. Morrison

I thought the Gas Bill Debate went very well, though I was sorry to note that, despite a Three Line Whip, my hon. Friend was not in the main Division last night. True, my hon. Friend—to whose representations I always pay very great respect—

Mr. Stokes


Mr. Morrison

I do. —did make representations to the Chief Whip and myself yesterday, but he is the only hon. Member with whom we have had direct contact on the point. In any case, I am powerless in the matter, because to suspend the Rule on a Supply Day—which would be most unusual—would require notice of Motion, so I am afraid I cannot help. As regards the length of Front Bench speeches, I am sure all right hon. Gentlemen will take due notice of what my hon. Friend has said.

Sir Arthur Salter

In view of the fact that, in the Representation of the People Bill there are major departures from the agreed Speaker's Conference recommendations, which have not been superseded by those of any responsible body, does the right hon. Gentleman think the interval of 17 days between the first publication of the Bill and the proposed Second Reading is reasonable, having regard to the necessity for consideration and consultation?

Mr. Morrison

The Speaker's Conference of the last Parliament—which was a most useful assembly, and produced a most valuable Report—cannot, of course, bind the present Parliament. The Bill has been out, as the right hon. Gentleman says, for some time; there have been three weekends during which it could be studied; there has been considerable discussion in the Press; the whole public is aware of the provisions of the Bill; and it is not unreasonable that we should have the Second Reading next week.

Sir A. Salter

In giving that answer has the Lord President considered that the interests concerned—such as, for example, the universities—had no reason whatever to expect these changes until publication of the Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, they had no warning from any responsible quarter. In view of the need for consideration and consultation, does the right hon. Gentleman think it is really propitious to give it consideration and a Second Reading on Monday and Tuesday next?

Mr. Morrison

I quite appreciate the strong interest of the right hon. Gentleman; but the universities, for whom I have a high regard, are places with considerable knowledge of public affairs, and at any rate their professors of political science might have made a reasonable guess that this was a possible step in such a Bill. The other point is that, as a matter of fact, weeks before the Bill was introduced there were prophecies in the newspapers that this might be the case. I am sure hon. and right hon. Members for the universities will be in a position next week competently to express university opinion as they assess it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I would point out that this Bill is the subject of Business for next Monday and Tuesday. We cannot debate it now.

Mr. Henry Strauss

In giving that last answer has the Lord President noted the statement made on the subject of this Bill by the Lord Chancellor in another place on 21st October, 1947, which, had it been correct, gave a complete assurance to the universities that nothing of this sort would take place?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a Business question, but a debating point.

Mr. Stokes

Reverting to the more reasonable part of my right hon. Friend's answer about the suspension of the Rule, will he bear in mind that it is quite within his power to suspend the Rule later in the day? What has happened to the "usual channels" about which we hear so much? A most responsible Member of this House told me yesterday that if the Debate were extended for a week the number of those wanting to speak would not be exhausted.

Mr. Morrison

That is possible. But it is a Supply Day, and I assure my hen. Friend I am advised that I have not power to suspend the Rule, even if I wished to do so—which is doubtful. There will be further opportunities for debate. There are bound to be opportunities for debating the economic situation as time goes on.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I quite agree; no doubt there will be further need, too; that is highly probable. Therefore, today's Debate does not end the business; there will be further Debates later on.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered scrapping the Business for tomorrow and allowing two days for this Debate?

Mr. Morrison

I quite see the brightness of the hon. Member's idea, but it does not commend itself to me. We must get on with the legislation.

Mr. Keeling

Can the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question I put to him last week, namely: do the Government propose to put down a Motion to approve the White Paper on land for the Services?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir. There was a pretty substantial reference to the White Paper on the occasion of the Debate on the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill. I have seen the Secretary of State's observations, to which the hon. Member drew my attention, but they did not commit the Government to a Debate. If a Debate is desired, it could quite conveniently take place, either on the Defence Estimates, which will come up in any case, or on a Supply Day.

Mr. Driberg

Could my right hon. Friend say how soon we are likely to have the promised Debate on the subject of Questions to Ministers with regard to the administration of nationalised industries?

Mr. Morrison

That is a matter for the usual channels. I am not in a position to answer that at the moment.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to consider allocating time for discussion of a Motion standing on the Order Paper in my name?—

[That this House, deeply concerned about the statement of the Chancellor that the £1 was only valued at 7s. 6d. compared to 1914 and the hardship, this imposes on old age pensioners, disabled soldiers and injured or incapacitated workers, particularly miners suffering from diseases and accidents peculiar to the mining industry, demands an immediate overhaul of all such pensions with a view to bringing them into line with the urgent needs of the recipient.]

The austerity under which these people have to live at present is becoming quite unendurable.

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that I could not provide special facilities for consideration of that Motion.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of a very early Debate on Civil Aviation, which should be separated from the Debate on Questions to Ministers?

Mr. Morrison

I have given one or two answers on that point. I think my hon. Friend can take it that a Debate will be arranged in the not too distant future.