HC Deb 04 March 1948 vol 448 cc533-7
Mr. Churchill

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

Mr. H. Morrison

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

Monday, 8th March—Supply (6th allotted Day). It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Navy Estimates, 1948–49, and to consider Votes A, 1, 2, 4, 10, 11 and 13 and Navy Supplementary Estimate in Committee.

Tuesday, 9th March—Supply (7th allotted Day). It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Army Estimates, 1948–49, and to consider Votes A, 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10 and Army Supplementary Estimate in Committee.

Wednesday, 10th March—Second Reading of the Palestine Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Thursday, 11th March—Supply (8th allotted Day) Committee, Supplementary Estimates for Ministry of Food; Diplomatic and Consular Establishments, etc.; United Nations; International Refugee Organisation; and Assistance to Greece will be considered. At 9.30 p.m. the Questions will be put from the Chair on the Vote under discussion and on all outstanding Estimates, Supplementary Estimates and Excess Votes required before the end of the financial year.

Friday, 12th March—Second Reading of the Cotton Spinning (Re-equipment Subsidy) Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Mr. Douglas Marshall

May I ask the Lord President of the Council if he can spare time, in the near future, for a Debate on the working party's report on the china clay industry, in view of the fact that this industry is, at the moment, the foremost exporting industry of raw material in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that I cannot agree to special time. I do not know whether this matter could have been discussed in the Debate this week on trade. If there is a wish to arrange for its discussion in relation to a Supply Day, we should be happy to discuss it.

Mr. Marshall

Absurd. It has only been issued today.

Mr. E. P. Smith

Can the Lord President say when the Bill for the rationalisation of the emoluments of the Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland will be considered?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that I do not know.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has seen the account of the Members' Fund, issued the other day; and is he aware that of the £8,000 which Members contributed last year, all that was spent was £Boo? We now have a balance at the bank of about £55,000. Surely, something can be done with that? Some of our old colleagues outside the House are very short of money, and it is absurd if we cannot do something with this money to help them.

Mr. Morrison

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Bill is under consideration. I hope that there will not be undue delay before it is put before the House.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I have been hammering at this for years.

Mr. Bing

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the grave constitutional issues raised by a subordinate Parliament attempting to restrict the rights of Members of this House to address the electors of Northern Ireland, which is within the United Kingdom, he will arrange for a Debate during the coming week on the Motion on the Order Paper standing in the name of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) and now, I understand, in the names of 100 other Members?

[That this House regards an order made by the Minister of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland prohibiting a meeting called at Londonderry for 17th March, 1948, and to be addressed by the honourable Member for the Platting Division of Manchester and the honourable Gentleman the junior Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone as a violation of the constitutional right of Members of this House to address the people whom they represent; and calls upon His Majesty's Government to seek powers so to amend the Government of Ireland Act, 192o, as to make it impossible for the Government of Northern Ireland to prohibit any public meeting called by Members of this House to discuss matters which are the responsibility of Parliament.]

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend rightly refers to it as a Motion dealing with constitutional matters, but he is constitutionally wrong in declaring the Parliament of Northern Ireland to be a subordinate Parliament. Within their statutory powers, the Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland are independent.

Earl Winterton

Is there any reason to believe that the fundamental suggestion in the Motion, namely, that the Parliament of Northern Ireland has done anything unconstitutional, can be supported for a moment.

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that I did not fully answer my hon. Friend's question. I do not want, if I can avoid doing so, fully to answer the noble Lord's question. These are constitutional matters, as I understand the position, for the Government of Northern Ireland, and I do not want, as a United Kingdom Minister, to express any opinion.

Mr. Neil Maclean

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is constitutional on the part of an official of a Parliament of another part of the United Kingdom to prohibit a Member of this House from visiting his constituency in that part of Northern Ireland which is governed by the Northern Ireland Government, and consequently to make it impossible for him to speak there as the representative of the people who elected him to this House of Commons?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that I must rule these questions out of Order. They are questions of law and questions of constitution which this House has no power to discuss. So long as the law remains as it is, I think that these questions are out of Order. A Motion, no doubt, could be discussed, but to put questions on this matter now is out of Order.

Professor Savory

It is not the hon. Member's constituency at all.

Mr. McGovern

If we protest rightly against actions that have been taken in Czechoslovakia, have we not the right to protest against actions being taken in areas from which Members are returned to this House, where another Parliament seeks to prevent them from addressing those who have sent them to this House?

Mr. Morrison

On the first point, I think it is ridiculously out of proportion to make any comparison between Czechoslovakia and this matter, which may be arguable and disputable as to law and order in Northern Ireland. On the second point, I repeat that I cannot be expected to answer questions which are constitutionally within the province of another Government, and within their statutory powers.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that we can pursue this feud any longer.

Sir Ronald Ross

On a point of Order.

Mr. Speaker

It is all very well for hon. Members to say, "Point of Order," but, as I have often said before to the House, Members cannot put the Speaker down by merely saying "Point of Order." I have my rights in the House as they have. I suggest to the House that this is becoming a feud which it is no use pursuing any longer at the moment. The Lord President of the Council was perfectly in Order to answer the question as to whether he could find time to discuss a Motion, but for hon. Members to go on asking questions and arguing that Motion under the guise of Business, seems to be out of Order, and I rule it out of Order. Therefore, I think we had better proceed to the next Business.

Mrs. Middleton

In relation to the Business for Monday, which is the Navy Estimates, I understand that Vote A8 will not be discussed, and, if not, can my right hon. Friend indicate when it will be possible for it to be discussed?

Mr. Morrison

These are the Votes set down, and I am afraid that I am not in the position to alter them. Perhaps the hon. Member would make inquiries, either at the Table or through the usual channels, and we will give such advice as we can on the matter.

Mr. McGovern

In relation to your statement, Mr. Speaker. I would respectfully submit that to suggest that these questions are based on a feud with Northern Ireland is totally out of proportion When I asked a question, I was told that it was a great constitutional issue, but all these issues on the Continent began in the same way.

Mr. Speaker

That just shows that these questions are getting right outside questions on Business. We must confine ourselves to Business questions.

Sir R. Ross

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I do not propose to ask any of the questions which I had in mind. But, surely, I may be allowed to correct the statement made by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean).

Mr. Speaker

That is exactly what is happening. One side is answering the other and we shall never get anywhere.

Mr. Driberg

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he proposes, at an early date, to introduce legislation to amend the law under which he quite correctly answered the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) about this outrageous insolence in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend is getting clearly within the Departmental field, and if he wishes to ask a question on it he should put it to the Prime Minister, or to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Churchill

When statements are made about the "outrageous insolence" of Northern Ireland, may it not also be remembered that without their aid we could not have fed ourselves in 1940?

Ordered: That this day, the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten of the clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House)."—[Mr. H. Morrison.]