HC Deb 20 October 1949 vol 468 cc756-62
Mr. Eden

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

Mr. Herbert Morrison

The Business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 24TH OCTOBER.—Committee stage of the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces Bill and, if agreeable to the House, the concluding stages;

Consideration of Motions to approve the Town and Country Planning (Mineral) Regulations, and similar Regulations for Scotland.

TUESDAY, 25TH OCTOBER.—Conclusion of the Report stage and Third Reading of the Coast Protection Bill [Lords];

Second Reading of the Coal Industry (No. 2) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY, 26TH AND 27TH OCTOBER.—The Government propose to afford an opportunity for the House to debate the statement to be made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Monday.

Also on Thursday, at the end of the Debate, we shall ask the House to take the Committee stage of the Ways and Means Resolution relating to Profits Tax.

FRIDAY, 28TH OCTOBER.—Report stage of the Ways and Means (Profits Tax) Resolution;

Committee stage of the Nurses Bill [Lords];

Committee and remaining stages of the Telegraph Bill, and of the following Consolidation Bills: House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill [Lords]' Representation of the People Bill [Lords], and Civil Aviation Bill [Lords].

Mr. Eden

Of course, the House is not aware of the nature of the statement to be made on Monday, which makes it difficult to discuss time, and all that. Is the right hon. Gentleman sure that the time lapse between Monday and Wednesday will be adequate to allow the House to examine the statement and properly to debate it on the Wednesday, if it is to be, as we all hope in the national interest it will be a wide and very important statement?

Mr. Morrison

I confess that, as the House of Commons has, I had such thoughts when I was questioned the other day. I thought the reaction of the Opposition then was that we ought to take it fairly soon. My own feeling is that the interval will give time for the House to appreciate the points that are made in the Prime Minister's statement, the nature of the statement, and so on. I think it will be all right from that point of view. There is something to be said, on reflection, for the viewpoint that when the statement is made there ought not to be material time between that statement and the Debate. I really think it will be better to take it on the Wednesday and Thursday as proposed.

Mr. Eden

I only want to be quite clear. What we had wanted was Thursday and Monday of the following week, to give at least another day for examination. However, apparently the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that the interval is enough. If he has doubts when the statement is prepared that it will not be enough, I hope he will think it right to postpone the Debate for a day, if that is thought to be desirable.

Mr. Morrison

I have a fairly good idea of the shape of things to come—at any rate between now and Monday—and, if I may say so with respect, I think that two days is really about the right period for this Debate. If I thought it ought to be more I would willingly consider it, but one can have too long a time as well as too short a time, and my own view is that two days will be about right for this Debate.

Mr. Eden

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what he has in mind as to the form the Debate will take? There is the Prime Minister's statement on Monday; what form will the Debate take on Wednesday?

Mr. Morrison

So that there shall be no risk of the House being restricted in the Debate—for example, if the question of legislation should emerge, either on our side or if the Opposition might wish to suggest it, I do not want the House to be inhibited from debating it—I think the most convenient form would be for the Government to put down a Motion which will enable the Debate to take a quite wide form.

Mr. Quintin Hogg

The right hon. Gentleman says that two days will be enough. Did I not understand him to say, that on Thursday, in addition to the resumption of the Debate, there will be part of the Profits Tax Resolution Debate as well? Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that that is a reasonable provision?

Mr. Morrison

We thought it was reasonable to take that for two reasons. For one thing, the economics of the Profits Tax will, I think, be debatable during the two days' Debate; and the other thing is that a Bill on the subject will follow, so that the House will get an opportunity to come back to the subject again. These are two additional days that we have got to find, and we did not think it unreasonable to ask the House to be so good as to take that Motion, which we hope will go through expeditiously.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

In view of the fact that the Debate the other day did not come to grips with the subject at all, and in view of the fact that this is likely to be a very important Debate indeed, will the Lord President please not close his mind to the possibility of having at least three days for debating the proposals announced on Monday, whether those days be next week or the week after?

Mr. Morrison

With great respect, I cannot be punished, so to speak, if in the opinion of the hon. Gentleman the last Debate misfired somewhat; nor would I dare express an opinion about that, because I might get into trouble with the House. I really think that two days is the right period. My own judgment is—and everybody is entitled to his opinion—that we shall get a better Debate in two days than we should if it were extended to three days.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

As the Government have taken at least a month to make up their minds on what the cuts should be, surely it would be wiser and fairer to give the Opposition and the country more than two days to appreciate what those cuts will involve?

Mr. Gallacher

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the opposing forces on the Government Front Bench will want to speak and how much time they will take?

Mr. Wyatt

Is it the intention of the Government at any time during the lifetime of this Parliament to have a Debate on Commonwealth Relations, as we have not yet had one?

Mr. Morrison

That would be a good subject for a Supply Day, but I rather fancy they have all gone. Therefore, in view of the state of the Parliamentary timetable, I am driven to answer that it would have been a good subject had it been chosen for a Supply Day.

Mr. Henry Strauss

Will the Government's Motion for the Debate on Wednesday and Thursday be tabled next Monday so that the House will have an opportunity to see what it is?

Mr. Morrison

I should imagine that the Motion will be put in on Monday night at the latest. We shall, of course, do our best to meet the convenience of the House in that matter.

Mr. Beswick

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been called to the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by 70 Members, calling for high level discussions on the international control and development of atomic energy? Can he say whether an opportunity will be given to discuss this Motion in the near future?

[That this House, while appreciating the great contribution made by the Prime Minister and the Government to the cause of international control of atomic energy, affirms its belief that the Prime Minister should take the initiative in proposing a conference between the heads of States, particularly the United States and the U.S.S.R., with a view to solving the existing deadlock and ending the race for the production of atomic and other weapons of mass destruction, and also believes that a supra-national Atomic Development Corporation should be set up and supported by all those nations which are willing to do so even if every nation in the world is not vet, at this moment, ready to join it.]

Mr. Morrison

I am bound to say I am surprised that the number of signatures is as low as 70, which is below the usual average. I am awfully sorry, but I see no prospect, in the immediate future at any rate, of being able to give facilities for the discussion of that Motion.

Mr. Henry Usborne

Leaving aside the number of names that have or have not been put down, does my right hon. Friend realise that there is a great feeling at the moment in the country that this subject ought to be discussed, and that if the House entirely ignores it, the country will not be at all happy about it? It does seem to me to be an important subject for discussion by this House.

Mr. Morrison

We must consider whether anything useful would come out of the discussion in relation to other things we have to do. The matter has been exhaustively discussed at the United Nations, and I gather that it is still on the agenda.

Mr. Spence

In regard to the economic Debate, in view of the large number of Members who will want to take part, will the right hon. Gentleman consider suspending the Rule for an agreed period on the first day?

Mr. Morrison

I will consider that.

Mr. Rogers

Are we likely to have an opportunity soon of discussing nationalised transport?

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend seems to have brought transports of delight to the Opposition. I do not see any immediate prospects, but, as the House knows, I did hope that after discussion with the Opposition it would be possible from time to time to debate some of the annual reports of the nationalised indus tries. [HON. MEMBERS: "You promised."] I promised to discuss it on a reasonable basis. It may possibly be one of the subjects.

Mr. Harold Davies

In view of the great importance of the Colonial areas in the dollar crisis, will an opportunity be given to the Colonial Secretary to make a statement and for the House to discuss the subject in the near future?

Mr. Morrison

That presumably could be raised next week, but whether my right hon. Friend makes a statement is for him to decide.

Mr. Cecil Poole

Coming back to nationalised transport, will the Lord President give serious consideration to the request of my hon. Friend, because it would afford an opportunity for the Opposition to tell us to where the £20 million of their alleged £25 million has disappeared.