HC Deb 17 March 1949 vol 462 cc2284-92
Mr. Oliver Stanley

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can make a statement upon the Business for next week?

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

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 21st March—Supply (9th allotted Day): Report stage of the Navy, Air and Army Estimates; the Diplomatic and Consular Establishments Supplementary Estimate; and of any Civil Supplementary Estimates announced for consideration today but not debated before 9.30 p.m.

At 9.30 p.m. the Question 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.

Tuesday, 22nd March—Second Reading of the Commonwealth Telegraphs Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution;

Committee stage of the Agricultural Marketing (Money) (No. 2) Resolution;

Committee and remaining stages of the Consular Conventions Bill, and the Lands Tribunal Bill.

Wednesday, 23rd March— Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill; Debate on Germany and Eastern Europe.

Thursday, 24th March—Committee and Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill; Debate on Manpower;

Second Reading of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill, which is usually a formal stage.

Friday, 25th March—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

I have to announce that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will have an important statement to make on the North Atlantic Pact at about 4 o'clock tomorrow, Friday. I realise that this is an inconvenient time for the House, but hon. Members will understand that we have had to synchronise our arrangements with those of a number of Governments on both sides of the Atlantic. We propose, with the agreement of the House, to suspend the Rule for half an hour up to five o'clock to enable the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère)o raise the subject of which he has given notice, after my right hon. Friend's statement.

It may be convenient if I inform the House that it is proposed to adjourn for Easter on Thursday, 14th April, until Tuesday, 26th April.

The House is aware from the Business Statement that the Diplomatic and Consular Establishments Supplementary Estimate is to be considered on Monday next after the Reports of the Service Estimates. This Estimate appears first today and we shall ask the Committee to agree to it formally, so that it may stand in its proper position on Monday.

Today, as the House is aware, we consider Civil Supplementary Estimates for the House of Commons, Government Hospitality, the Board of Trade, Miscellaneous Works Services, the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Food.


With reference to the announcement of the statement to be made tomorrow afternoon by the Foreign Secretary on the North Atlantic Pact, can my right hon. Friend say what procedure it is, proposed to follow. Will questions only on the statement be permitted or is the Adjournment to be moved in order that a discussion may take place; and if discussion takes place, will there be an opportunity for. Members who may wish to take differing views from those who support the Pact to express those views, or is it proposed that the procedure shall be that outlined in "The Times" last Friday, which was that statements in support of the Pact should be made by leaders of the various political parties?


I have no knowledge of what leaders of various political parties may say. It was proposed, as far as the Government is concerned—and subject always to Mr. Speaker—that the Foreign Secretary would make his statement and that there would be supplementary questions in the ordinary way; and that then we should pass from that subject to the Adjournment and the question to be raised by the hon. Member for Evesham. It will, however, be the case that in due course, and at no distant date, there will be a proper Debate on a Motion to ratify the Treaty.

Major Legge- Bourke

On the subject of Business for next Monday. Did the right hon. Gentleman deliberately put the Air Estimates before the Army Estimates, or are we to have them in the order of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force?

Mr. H. Morrison

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right. I thought of that myself when I had got past it. The order should have been the other way round. If, however, the question relates to the order of sequence, I understand there is a wish on the part of the Opposition that the Air Estimates should be taken before those for the Army—in which case I was right.

Mr. Stanley

Is it not a fact that because there was a Division on Vote A of the Army Estimates, and not on those for the Navy and Air, the Debate on the Army Supplementary Estimate is necessarily more limited than the other two, and that this is the reason for their being taken in that order?

Mr. H. Morrison

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. He is quite right.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Reverting to the business for tomorrow afternoon. I am not quite clear how the thing is based. Are we to take it that the Foreign Secretary will be speaking on the Motion for the Adjournment?

Mr. Morrison

As I understand it, subject to the Chair, it is a statement made in the ordinary way. It is not proposed specially to move the Adjournment to make it debatable. The Debate will come later.

Mr. Silverman

I am afraid I have not made myself very clear. Normally, on Friday at four o'clock the House adjourns, without Question put, subject to the half hour's Adjournment Debate. If the Foreign Secretary is to make a statement at four o'clock tomorrow, that is outside the time for making statements unless, in fact, he is speaking on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that the Rule is to be suspended for half an hour in order that the Foreign Secretary may make a statement. Whether that is done on the Adjournment or not has nothing to do with me. If the Government choose to move the Adjournment, they can do so. I cannot move the Adjournment.

Mr. Silverman

I understand that, but if the Foreign Secretary is not speaking on the Adjournment, on what Order will he be speaking?

Mr. Morrison

The Government propose tomorrow to move that the Sitting be suspended until 5 o'clock and the ordinary half hour Adjournment will be taken at 4.30 instead of at 4 o'clock. Therefore, presumably—I say presumably—the Foreign Secretary will make a statement in the ordinary way so far as Order is concerned, just as if he were making a statement at the end of Questions.

Mr. Clement Davies

One difficulty which the Leader of the House seems to have overlooked is that when the House meets, the House will be asked to extend the time from 4 o'clock to 4.30 and then Private Members' Bills will be taken. Suppose someone catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, just before 4 o'clock and continues after 4 o'clock, how can the statement then be made?

Mr. Speaker

I take it that the Motion will be to suspend the Rule for Government Business and Private Members' Business would end.

Mr. Mikardo

As my right hon. Friend has announced a complete set of Business for next week, does that mean that the Debate on the Atlantic Pact must necessarily fall on the following week, or is it possible to have the Business rearranged and have the Debate next week?

Mr. Morrison

The fact that I have announced the Business for the whole of next week, I think, means that the Debate on the Atlantic Pact will not take place next week. A White Paper is to be issued and I think the House would probably wish to have a little time to think about it. Therefore, unless any such circumstances eventuate which make it desirable, I do not think a Debate on the Atlantic Pact will take place next week.

Captain Crookshank

Is it not a fact that in order to make such a statement as is indicated it will be necessary for the Minister concerned temporarily to move the Adjournment for that purpose?

Mr. Morrison


Captain Crookshank

Yes, tomorrow. If that is so, it will be necessary for the Government to put down a Motion on the Paper tomorrow morning to distinguish between the special Adjournment they want for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement, and the normal Adjournment on which my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham is to raise another matter.

Mr. Morrison

There will be a Motion on the Paper tomorrow morning. I think that will solve the doubts in the minds of hon. Members.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps it will help the House if I point this out. I think I am quite clear about this. I assume the Government will move the Adjournment at 4 o'clock. That will go on until half past four. Then we get the moment of interruption and the Adjournment secured by the hon. Member for Evesham will take place. Both Adjournments can last half an hour each and no longer.

Mr. Silverman

Is it now clear that the answer to the question I asked, whether the Government will move the Adjournment, is now "Yes," whereas before no one knew? If that is not so, and if there is to be some Motion on the Order Paper tomorrow, I wish to ask how that can be in Order, in view of the Resolution passed at the instance of the Government a little time ago that Fridays are devoted to Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Speaker

That is quite in Order, because the whole of Fridays—the normal hours—are occupied by Private Members' Bills and this matter comes outside that time.

Mr. Driberg

Could my right hon. Friend clear up a little further what Mr. Speaker has said and indicate the precise nature of the Motion which will be on the Order Paper tomorrow?

Mr. Morrison

I beg of the House not to worry itself about things which are really not worth worrying about. Private Members' time will not be prejudiced by this change in the situation. It is merely a matter of providing a convenient opportunity, which must be at a certain hour, for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement. I am sure that when my hon. Friends see the Motion on the Order Paper tomorrow all their doubts and unhappiness will be settled.

Mr. Warbey

Now that the position is somewhat clearer, do we understand that we are to have about half an hour during which the Foreign Secretary will make a statement and during which such hon. Members as catch your eye may be able to make their statements? [HoN. MEMBERS: "No, questions."] I think I am right in saying that if we are on the Adjournment, hon. Members will be in Order in making statements and that those statements may be statements of view. Therefore, in half an hour, we shall have a certain limited number of statements of views on the Atlantic Pact. In other words, instead of having the full Debate which every other country, except Portugal I think, has had on the Atlantic Pact, we shall merely have a series of brief statements of views which may be totally unreflective of the views of this House and of the country. May I ask the Lord President of the Council, in view of this position, whether he will consider giving this House, as all other democratic Parliaments in Western Europe have had, an opportunity of debating the policy of this matter before the Pact is signed?

Mr. Morrison

If I may say so, I know as much, or as little, about the practices of other democratic Parliaments in Europe as does my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey). We shall follow the customary procedure of the British House of Commons and that is all about it.

Mr. Gallacher

I want to ask the Minister, in view of the Atlantic Pact to which I am very strongly and viciously opposed, if it is the case that after the Foreign Secretary makes his statement arrangements have been made for the Members of this House to sing the "Red Flag"?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

After the statement is made on the Adjournment, there is no need for any comments on the statement to be limited in time, and it may well be that the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) may alone catch Mr. Speaker's eye and his comment may be the only comment which goes out to the world. Is there not a danger in that?

Mr. Morrison

No doubt that idea will be taken note of by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Eric Fletcher

On Business, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he proposes to give the House time for consideration of the Motion standing on the Order Paper on the subject of analgesia, in which a great many Members on both sides of the House are interested?

(That in the opinion of this House the Government should take all necessary steps, including the provision of time, in order to facilitate consideration of the Analgesia in Childbirth Bill.)

Mr. Morrison

I have seen this Motion, which certainly has been extensively signed, but the matter was dealt with by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health on the Second Reading of the Private Member's Bill. It was further dealt with by the Minister of Health during the last few days, and I thought his statement fully met the situation. Whilst it has become somewhat hot politics in the Conservative Party—very hot politics on the part of the Conservative Party—I do not think there would be any advantage in a Debate on it.

Mr. Stanley

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman why it is that it is hot politics when Conservatives put their names to a Motion, but humane feeling when Socialists put down their names to a Motion; and whether the effect of the intervention of the Minister of Health has not been to add names to the Motion, and is not the right hon. Gentleman's intervention trying to do the same thing?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir, I am trying to be quiet and gentle, but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that before this large number of names had been put down, the Conservative Party had made politics of this matter at the North St. Pancras by-election. On the eve of the poll, they issued a leaflet which, whilst claiming that the Bill was a non-political Bill, which had the approval of all sides of the House of Commons. went on to ask the electors to vote for the Conservative candidate because the Socialist Government would not give this Measure support. That was before any dispute took place this week and, no doubt, my hon. Friends will take note of the use to which the Conservative Party have put it.

Mr. Peter Thorneycroft

Will the right hon. Gentleman at least make clear that whatever was said, or was not said, at North St. Pancras, I and those associated with me have not made party politics out of this; and will he make it perfectly clear that he is not accusing his own supporters who put their names to the Motion in large numbers and Conservatives of this side of the House, of trying to make party capital, as this is a matter which rises above politics?

Mr. Morrison

I can only say that this leaflet was issued officially on the eve of the poll of the North St. Pancras by election by the Conservative agent, no doubt with the approval of the Conservative Central Office, and I must draw my own deductions.

Mrs. Leah Manning

In view of the fact which my right hon. Friend must realise, that hon. Members on this side of the House who are associated with the Bill are not trying to make party politics out of it, and since he must also realise that practically no names of hon. Members on this side of the House have been withdrawn from this Motion since yesterday or the day before, will be consider the possibility of answering the great demand which exists for time to be given for consideration of this Motion?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think that I can usefully add to what the Parliamentary Secretary and my right hon. Friend have said. As to the political inferences on this side of the House, I must leave my hon. Friend to draw deductions from what I have reported to the House.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Will the right hon. Gentleman "contract out" a little from what the Minister of Health said in this House?

Mr. S. Silverman

May I refer to another question about party politics which is perhaps not less important than the one to which reference has just been made? May I ask my right hon. Friend whether there is really anything improper or unusual in the House of Commons being given an opportunity to discuss an important new venture in the field of international relations before the Government commit themselves to signing; and whether, if that has been done in every other country which is concerned in this matter there would be any harm done—whether on the contrary a great deal of good would not be done—if the matter were ventilated before the signature of the Pact?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot be sure exactly on what date signatures will actually be appended, but I must uphold what I think is proper, traditional British Parliamentary practice, that is, that the Government take their responsibility in entering into a treaty and the House of Commons has its perfectly free responsibility to approve or not to approve of what the Government have done.