HC Deb 31 March 1949 vol 463 cc1453-6
Mr. Eden

Would the Leader of the House be good enough to tell us the Business for next week?

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

Yes, Sir. I am sure we are all glad to see the right hon. Gentleman back safe and sound.

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 4th April—Report and Third Reading of the Agricultural Marketing Bill;

Second Reading of the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Bill [Lords]; and

Consideration of the Lords Amendments to the Juries Bill.

Tuesday, 5th April—Supply (10th Allotted Day); Debate on the meat situation.

Wednesday, 6th April—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget and will review the economic situation of the country in relation to the White Paper recently published on the Economic Survey for 1949.

Thursday, 7th April—General Debate on the Budget Resolutions and on the economic situation, which, I may now mention for the convenience of the House, will be continued on Monday, 11th April, and brought to a conclusion on Tuesday, 12th April.

Friday, 8th April—Second Reading of the Coast Protection Bill [Lords] and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Mr. Eden

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind welcome. With reference to Tuesday's Debate on the meat situation, it is not in the minds of those on this side of the House to wish to discuss the detailed negotiations now proceeding with Argentina, which we realise might be embarrassing. What we do want to discuss is the general meat situation and such questions as the supply of feedingstuffs.

Mr. Morrison

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure the House will appreciate the indication that the Opposition do not propose to deal with matters which might conceivably be embarrassing in the present negotiations.

Mr. Eden

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that, certainly for the last 25 years, the Budget statement has always been made in this House on a Monday or Tuesday. Would he be good enough to tell us why this time it has to be made on a Wednesday?

Mr. Morrison

It is a most extraordinary thing that this point has only just arisen, because when I announced the date of the Budget introduction a fortnight ago, nobody said a word, and I distinctly said Wednesday. The reason is that the Chancellor has been very heavily pressed; as the House knows, he had to go to Paris on various negotiations. He is hard pressed to get his Budget statement ready at the approximate date, and he did want this slightly longer time in order that he might be fully equipped to deal with the matter.

Mr. Eden

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not consider this matter a little further. As I have said, this precedent has been followed by other Governments, including Labour Governments, and it has the advantage that the Budget Resolutions can immediately follow the Budget statement instead of being divided between two weeks, as is now proposed. Would it not be a good thing to keep to this precedent, so long accepted by all parties in this House?

Mr. Morrison

Well, whatever might have been done earlier, I doubt whether it could be followed now. It would not be possible at this stage for the Chancellor to bring his statement forward 24 hours. There is the additional consideration that it so happens that by the calendar, the Budget has to come very quickly after the financial year, and this extra day will be of great value, coming so early after the end of the financial year.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew

Does the right hon. Gentleman think he will be able to find time to discuss the accounts for the Member's Fund, which were presented about a month ago? As he probably has seen, the reserve is now up to £62,000, and the money spent on our 29 beneficiaries last year was about a quarter of our income. Does the right hon. Gentleman not consider that it should be discussed at some convenient time?

Mr. Morrison

I am sure the House has seen that report with some interest. We are all very glad that the fund is being looked after so well, and we are grateful to the hon. and gallant Member and his colleagues for the work they are doing. However, I am afraid that I could not find time for a Debate on that matter, although I take this opportunity of suggesting to hon. Members that the report of the Committee is certainly well worth study and attention.

Mr. Oliver

Will my right hon. Friend say when an opportunity will be given to discuss the report on mining subsidence? This is a matter which interests some scores of local authorities and many thousands of people living in the mining areas.

Mr. Morrison

I appreciate the importance and difficulty of the matter to which my hon. Friend refers, but I doubt if I could find time for discussion at the moment. It might conceivably come up in connection with Supply. I understand that my hon. Friends from mining constituencies are very anxious to discuss this with Ministers and I am doing my very best to make the necessary arrangements.

Mr. Eric Fletcher

Is the Leader of the House prepared to provide facilities for a discussion in the House on the Report of the U.N.E.S.C.O. conference at Beirut, which has recently been published?

Mr. Morrison

I am aware of that Report, and it would obviously be a proper matter for discussion on a Supply Day on the Ministry of Education Vote.

Sir I. Fraser

Reverting to the question of Budget day, while accepting the right hon. Gentleman's explanation as to the choice of day, might I ask him to bear in mind that the customary broadcasts which have taken place for very many years subsequent to the Budget statement have been arranged so as to be fair to all parties? Will he further bear in mind that the decision in this matter rests with the Governors of the B.B.C., but if they seek to make a change which would be fairer, having regard to the forthcoming local elections, would he ask the Chancellor to agree?

Mr. Morrison

I must say this is the quaintest argument I have yet met. I never dreamed that this had anything to do with the local government elections. This question has put thoughts in my mind that had far better not be there. I never thought of it. I really cannot conceive that people who are voting at county council elections are voting about the Chancellor's Budget. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] No; the poor things have got their own budgets to worry about without worrying about the Chancellor's Budget. The only way to readjust the matter to meet the point made by the hon. Member, would be for the Chancellor to broadcast about his Budget on the night before the Budget statement is made.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

May we assume from this peculiar arrangement, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to announce that evening the sort of concessions usually kept for by-elections?

Mr. Morrison

I deprecate all these subtle partisan political matters coming up in connection with the Business of the House.

Mr. Clement Davies

May I also call attention to the fact that there seems to be undue preference given to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other Opposition? Why is there not an equal opportunity given to the Liberal Party.

Mr. Morrison

I am not without sympathy with my right hon. and learned Friend in point but as he will appreciate, we have been pressed by the official Opposition to keep to the ordinary course of events, and that it what we are doing.

Mr. Norman Smith

Will my right hon. Friend give time for a Debate on the Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for South Nottingham—

[That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that all licensees of public houses, being tenants of breweries, should have the statutory right to buy their freeholds, if they so wish, at a price to be determined by arbitration, with a view to giving consumers the widest possible choice,]—

in view of the fact that circumstances prevented any Debate on the Private Members' Bill covering the same topic?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that I am not fully aware of the circumstances of this matter, but I shall note my hon. Friend's point and look into it.