HC Deb 24 June 1948 vol 452 cc1567-73
Mr. Eden

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

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

The Business for next week will be as follows:—

Monday, 28th June—Report and Third Reading of the Children Bill [Lords] until about 7 p.m.;

Committee stage of the Monopoly (Inquiry and Control) (No. 2) Money Resolution;

Motions to approve the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Regulations; Modification of Mines Act Regulations; and Enforcement of Restriction of Ribbon Development Acts Regulations; and similar Regulations relating to Scotland.

It is hoped to complete the Children Bill by about 7 p.m. so that the Town and Country Planning Regulations may be moved at a reasonable hour.

Tuesday, 29th June—Report and Third Reading of the Monopoly (Inquiry and Control) Bill.

Wednesday, 30th June—Supply (19th allotted Day)—Committee. A Debate will take place on Germany.

Thursday, 1st July—Second Reading of the Export Guarantees Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution;

Consideration of the Lords Amendments to the Agriculture (Scotland) Bill.

Friday, 2nd July—Committee and remaining stages of the Public Works Loans (No. 2) Bill;

Committee stage of the Army Expenditure, 1946–47;

Resumption of the adjourned Debate on the Second Reading of the Factories Bill [Lords];

Report and Third Reading of the Merchant Shipping Bill [Lords];

Second Reading of the Agricultural Wages Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

It may be for the convenience of the House for me to make a statement on the arrangements proposed for bringing the present Session to an end and on the dates of future Sessions.

It is expected that all outstanding Business required before the end of the present Session will be disposed of by Friday, 30th July, and that Parliament will be prorogued on that day. The Government intend to take steps to secure the passage of the Parliament Bill, if necessary under the procedure of the Parliament Act, 1911. To satisfy the conditions of that Act, it is proposed to hold in the Autumn a short Session in which the Parliament Bill will be brought forward for a second time. This Session will be opened by His Majesty on Tuesday, 14th September next, and will be for the sole purpose of considering the Parliament Bill in both Houses.

The number of sitting days will naturally depend upon the time required for the Debate on the Address, for any incidental Business which may be necessary and for the consideration of the Parliament Bill in both Houses. If it is found that the necessary Business can be dealt with in both Houses in the first two weeks of the Session, then the Adjournment will be proposed not later than Friday, 24th September until Monday, 25th October, when it is expected that the Session will be brought to an end by Prorogation.

The Session of 1948–49 will, it is expected, be opened on Tuesday, 26th October.

Mr. Eden

Before I ask questions about the proposal for an Autumn Session, I should like to ask about a matter connected with next week's Business, namely the European Recovery Programme and the agreement connected therewith. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the anxiety which exists in all parts of the House that we should have adequate time to discuss these matters before they come into operation, and as we are now approaching 3rd July may I ask him if the Government will consider whether it would not be better to have some postponement of that date rather than that Parliament should not have a full and adequate opportunity to discuss these vital proposals?

Mr. Morrison

I am anxious that Parliament shall have a proper opportunity to debate these proposals on a Government Motion. I think that would be right, and that proper notice of the proposed agreement should be given. Negotiations are continuing with an earnest desire on both sides to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, but progress has not been so rapid as we originally expected. We shall, of course, ensure that the House has adequate time to consider the agreement before a Debate takes place. I am sure that both sides of the House will agree that it would be preferable to go past the date of 3rd July rather than to rush through an agreement of so vital a character.

Mr. Eden

I am obliged. May I now ask some questions about the proposed Autumn Session? The right hon. Gentleman has given us two operative dates in the Government programme, and it is convenient for the whole House to have those arrangements before them. At the same time, I must make it plain that we on this side of the House are unalterably opposed to this procedure of a short Session as we are, of course, to the whole of the Government's manoeuvres of which this short Session forms part. Therefore, we can give no undertaking on our side of the House as to the length of that Session or as to the course of the Business in it.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Has my right hon. Friend seen on the Order Paper today a Motion touching upon a suggested amnesty for deserters, signed by nearly 100 Members of the House of Commons?

[That this House would welcome an early reconsideration by His Majesty's Government of the question of an amnesty to deserters from the fighting services.]

In view of the importance of the subject, can he find time for a Debate on that important issue?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that with the programme which the House has to complete by the end of July, I could not find time for a Debate on that Motion.

Mr. Churchill

With regard to the extremely important and far-reaching statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made as to the Government's intention for the future course of Business up till the end of this year and beyond, are we to understand that between now and Christmas there will be two Sessions opened with separate King's Speeches before Christmas—

Mr. Morrison

indicated assent.

Mr. Churchill

—and that after that, 13 months will pass before there is any other Debate on the King's Speech—that is, up till December, 1949? Is not that an extraordinary way of manipulating our Business? Are not the Debates on the Address following the delivery of a Gracious Speech the grand inquest of the nation? Are they not intended to be the one occasion in the whole year when the House has the fullest possible opportunities of examining every question and testing every point, not only by Debate but by Division? Why should we be confronted with a plan which crushes two of these occasions into a matter of three months and then leaves this enormous gap without the House being given any of these facilities which always have been treasured among the greatest of its debating liberties? Is this not a piece of manipulation against the spirit of the Constitution and of the Parliament Act? Is it not designed to bring in a fake Session for some little paltry manoeuvre which is far below the dignity of Parliament?

Mr. Morrison

Of course, there is a simple solution of all these troubles which are causing the right hon. Gentleman some anxiety, and that is for another place to pass the Parliament Bill. If that were done, my task would be much more simple and the anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman would be much less. The broad procedure which the right hon. Gentleman has indicated—I do not want to commit myself to the final details—is, I am afraid, completely inevitable, not under any manoeuvres of the Government or any other nasty words he is using, but under the provisions of the Parliament Act of 1911. I am afraid it is inevitable, and really the right hon. Gentleman must not blame me for the Parliament Act of 1911. He was one of the joint authors of that statute.

Mr. Shurmer

May I appeal to the Leader of the House once more, in view of the grave anxiety being caused to many thousands of families in this country since the cessation of hostilities, to find a short time to fit in this question of deserters? He must be aware that there are thousands of families in this country who are anxious about their relatives who are hiding in various parts of the country.

Mr. Morrison

I am very sorry, but I am afraid that with the work we have to do it is quite impossible to provide facilities.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Will the Lord President say whether we shall be given an opportunity, before it comes into action, of discussing the new food agreement with Eire, which is of the greatest possible importance not only to millions of people of this country but also to the agricultural industry in particular?

Mr. Morrison

We had better see what the agreement is. It has not been published in full detail yet, I do not think, but it is one of the business transactions which arise. It could, of course, be taken on Supply with the Ministry of Food, but I should not have thought it so very important as to call for special Governmental facilities.

Mrs. Middleton

In view of the obvious anxiety and concern apparent on all sides of the House regarding the question of late war damage claims, will my right hon. Friend find time for a discussion on this subject, other than that which can be provided within the confines of an Adjournment Debate.

Mr. Morrison

With great respect to my hon. Friend, I thought she had quite a good time out one Friday afternoon, and various hon. Members also expressed their views with great precision at least, if not with emphasis, and my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary had his work cut out to hold the fort, although he did so very successfully.

Major Legge-Bourke

May I ask the Leader of the House a question arising out of his reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and Kinross (Colonel Gomme-Duncan)? Will he consider the Government putting down a Motion to approve the Eire Trade Agreement rather than having it raised on a Supply Day, on the same grounds as those on which he is doing the same thing for the European Recovery Programme?

Mr. Morrison

This is in the ordinary course of commercial business which involves purchases from other countries. There is nothing special about it. I hardly think it necessary to adopt that procedure, but if there is unhappinness about it, I think a Supply Day is the proper course.

Mr. Driberg

Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to clarify what he said about the House having "time to consider the agreement" on the European Recovery Programme before the Debate takes place? Does that mean that the agreement, with all its terms and conditions, will be presented to the House as a fait accompli before there has been a Debate even on its general principles? I simply ask for information, in view of the Foreign Secretary's undertaking that there would be a Debate on it during the coming week.

Mr. Morrison

What I have in mind is that discussions will reach a certain stage, in which the Government will come to certain conclusions. It will then be published—the proposed agreement—but it will not have been finally ratified, so to speak. What I am anxious about is that the House shall have a reasonable time in which to study the agreement before the Debate, which involves ratification, takes place.

Mr. Osborne

On future Business, may I ask the Leader of the House, if, when the dock strike is happily settled, he will find time when the House might discuss the work of the trades unions as a whole, in view of their importance in the economic life of this country, and the reason why they are not functioning as they ought to function? Would there be time when we could discuss that as a House, since it affects the House as a whole?

Mr. Morrison

I think, perhaps, It would be better considered when the dock strike has finished. It may be that some day we might have a very interesting Debate on how trade unions and employers organisations and various other organisations of all kinds function in the community. I think that would be very interesting, but I cannot see the possibility of providing facilities at the moment.