HC Deb 22 June 1950 vol 476 cc1474-81
Mr. Eden

May I ask the Leader of the House to tell us about Business for next week?

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

Sir, the Business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY AND TUESDAY, 26TH AND 27TH JUNE.—Supply (17th Allotted Day), Committee.

It is proposed to take Supply formally and then debate the Opposition Motion relating to the Schuman Plan. In view of representations which have been made, the Debate will be continued on Tuesday and brought to a conclusion about 7 p.m. on that day.

Afterwards we shall proceed with the Committee and remaining stages of the Public Registers and Records (Scotland) Bill [Lords], and the Second Reading of the Medical Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY, 28TH JUNE.—Second Reading of the Miscellaneous Financial Provisions Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution;

Report and Third Reading of the Midwives (Amendment) Bill [Lords];

Consideration of the draft Transferred Undertakings (Compensation to Employees) Regulations, and of the Motion relating to the Government of India (Family Pensions Funds) (Amendment) Order.

THURSDAY, 29TH JUNE.—Second Reading of the Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution;

Consideration of the First Annual Report of the National Film Finance Corporation, and of the Motion to approve the Ceylon Broadcasting Agreement.

FRIDAY, 30TH JUNE.—Second Reading of the Colonial and Other Territories (Divorce Jurisdiction) Bill [Lords];

Second Reading of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Mr. Eden

May I ask the Leader of the House about Friday's Business—the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill? As far as I know, it has not yet been printed. Can we know when we may have it? May we also know whether it applies to Scotland?

Mr. Morrison

The Agriculture Bill is being presented today and will be available tomorrow. It is a short Bill. I think it has some relation to the Budget. It does apply to Scotland.

Mr. Churchill

I understand that the Government have a statement to make on the MacManaway Report, and I therefore ask them: have they?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir. We have been considering this matter. It is felt that the House ought to deal with the Report of the Select Committee on the case of the hon. Member, and I think that if discussion took place through the usual channels we might perhaps be able to devote half a day to it on Wednesday up to about seven o'clock.

Mr. Churchill

Wednesday next?

Mr. Morrison

This Wednesday coming. The Report has been before the House a little while, and probably it ought to be disposed of because a recommendation was made. I may say that the situation is somewhat changed in that the hon. Member has taken his seat. Nevertheless, we do feel that the state of the law is qualified and it may be for the convenience of the House if I were to say that we shall suggest that it would be wise to get the advisory opinion of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council so that they can advise us what, in their judgment, is the state of the law. Of course, it is a little different now from what it was when the Committee considered it, in that the hon. Member has taken his seat, but it is for the House to decide.

Mr. Churchill

Surely that does not alter the law. It may expose him to some penalty, but it does not alter the law.

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir. The problem is that nobody is certain what the law is. [Interruption.] With respect to the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who is very confident on the subject, if one proposes to alter the law it is not a bad idea to find out what the state of the law is before one alters it. It is felt that if we could get that advisory opinion it would enable us to consider more carefully whether any further action is needed. It may be that it is not.

Mr. Churchill

Certainly, there is not the same urgency about the matter now that the hon. Member has taken his seat, and an appeal to the Privy Council for an examination of the matter by the Privy Council would no longer prolong indefinitely the disfranchisement of a constituency of 8,000 electors.

Mr. Ellis Smith

With regard to the Debate on the Schuman proposals, my right hon. Friend will be aware that this has aroused great interest and controversy throughout the country. In order that all interests may be able to state their attitude in this House, will my right hon. Friend agree to reconsider the proposal to terminate the Debate at seven o'clock, so that we can have at least two days to debate the proposals?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid we cannot do that. It is a matter on which I know quite a number of hon. Members wish to speak, but we have by arrangement found this other half day which I thought was a material improvement in the situation from that point of view. I am afraid I cannot go any further.

Mr. Churchill

Returning to the other point, if the decision of the Government and the advice they are going to tender to the House is that the MacManaway case and the state of the law should be referred to the Privy Council, will it not be a little difficult, or at any rate superfluous, for us to argue it all out here beforehand? I am only suggesting that possibly if it were the general opinion that it should be so referred, some other business might come forward and we might make progress with our heavy load.

Mr. Morrison

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly I should be much obliged for anything that could help us with the heavy load, because there is a good deal to do before the day when we hope the House will adjourn. The only point that I am on is that if there is agreement between the official Opposition and the Government, and other people are not dissenting, perhaps we could take it that the Government might be free so to proceed. If, however, there was a difference of opinion it would be best for the House to express itself even if there was a very short debate. I am advised, which I was afraid of, that we should have to get a formal Motion. If we can get that by agreement, I shall be much obliged.

Mr. Churchill

It would be more respectful to the Select Committee if the matter were brought before the House, I was only suggesting that we might not in all the circumstances require a lengthy Debate.

Mr. Morrison

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. If I may say so, I quite agree.

Sir Ronald Ross

As there is a Select Committee which has recommended that appropriate legislation should be proceeded with, would it not be more proper to proceed with that legislation? The legislation can clarify the law and can amend it.

Mr. Morrison

The point about amending the law is that there is doubt, as indeed the Select Committee reported, on what the law means. That indeed is the whole problem. The Attorney-General gave evidence and was not able to give a decided opinion about it. Others gave evidence and gave more decided opinions one way or the other, and there is genuine doubt about the law. Therefore, it would be well to get this advisory opinion; it can be no more than an advisory opinion, but it would be the opinion of a very high authority. I think we ought to get that in the first instance. If it should prove that legislation is not necessary my impression is that hon. Members generally will be somewhat relieved that it is not necessary on this difficult subject.

Mr. Eric Fletcher

In view of the large number of hon. Members wishing to take part in the Debate on the Schuman Plan, would the right hon. Gentleman consider extending the time for one hour on Monday?

Mr. Morrison

I will consider that, but it must not be thought that because the right hon. Gentleman has helped me to save some time somewhere that I am immediately going to squander it somewhere else. I am in trouble anyway. But I will consider that and it really depends on how the House is feeling.

Sir Herbert Williams

Regarding the question of the missing Member—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, he is not missing"]—he is in hospital—what is the value of asking the opinion of the Privy Council when, whatever that opinion is, it would not be binding on the High Court if a common informer lays a charge? Would it not be very much more appropriate to have declaratory legislation which is the customary practice in a case of doubt?

Mr. Morrison

There are complications which arise which I am not anxious to walk into and hon. Gentlemen elsewhere may not be anxious to walk into when they get there—[Laughter.]—or did not get there—after all we are dealing with an Irish problem. The hon. Member is right that the view of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council cannot be conclusive, but I am advised that it is an opinion of such weight and importance that it is doubtful, it is very improbable, that it would be different from any view the High Court would settle. It is a convenient way and it would help the Government and the House to consider whether any legislation is necessary or not.

Mr. A. Edward Davies

May I ask my right hon. Friend when an opportunity will be afforded to the House to consider the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Enugu Coalfield.

Mr. Morrison

I do not know whether there will be a Debate in the ordinary course of the year as there normally is on Colonial Affairs. But if there is it might come up.

Mr. Emrys Roberts

May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman would consider a Motion standing in my name and the names of my hon. Friends relating to the financial and economic relations between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, and could he provide time for a Debate, particularly in view of the observations just now by the Minister of Agriculture about the economic conditions of Wales?

[That this House deplores the refusal of His Majesty's Government to set up a committee of inquiry into the economic and financial relations between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom; considers that Wales is entitled to equality of treatment with Scotland in this respect; and calls on His Majesty's Government to reconsider this question without delay.]

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid I cannot provide time for that Motion.

Miss Irene Ward

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is yet in a position to make a statement on the policy of the Government with regard to fish?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir, I am not.

Miss Ward

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I could not hear the reply.

Mr. Morrison

I agree with the hon. Lady; I had a job to hear it myself. The answer is No, Sir, I am very sorry, but we are not yet ready to make a statement.

Major Guy Lloyd

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give any convincing reason to the House why we should have the prospect of being up all night when there is plenty of time to discuss the Finance Bill in Committee? There is no hurry to adjourn whatever and we have far too long a Recess in any case?

Mr. Morrison

I never heard such a long string of false assumptions in all my life.

Mr. George Thomas

May I ask my right hon. Friend when he will give an opportunity for a full discussion of Welsh affairs in view of the provocative statement of the Minister of Agriculture?

Mr. Morrison

I am sorry that I missed this statement. I will find out what my right hon. Friend said but I hope that before the year is out there will be an opportunity to discuss Welsh affairs.

Mr. Pickthorn

About the Nigerian mine, the name of which I hesitate to pronounce, will the right hon. Gentleman consider having put in the Library the minutes of evidence so that it may be easier for hon. Members to judge whether they ought to press for a whole day or not?

Mr. Morrison

I have a memory that a Question was put about this and somebody answered it. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will find out whether there is a copy in the Library—I am told there is, and therefore the hon. Gentleman will now be happy and can go and read it

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braith-waite

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on a domestic matter? Is he still hopeful of providing time before we adjourn to discuss the Report of the Kitchen Committee?

Mr. Morrison

I am still hoping, yes.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Arising out of the Question of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Major Lloyd) what is the nature of the heavy load of Parliamentary Business to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? Why was two weeks allocated to the Whitsuntide Recess and why was not six or seven days allotted to the Committee stage of the Finance Bill?

Mr. Speaker

We are discussing the Business for next week and not the whole of the Government programme.

Mr. Pickthorn

I am sorry, I did not say exactly what I meant last time—it happens to everybody now and then. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that one copy is enough for this purpose and is it not possible to get the thing printed?

Mr. Morrison

I can comfort the hon. Gentleman again; more copies will be available.

Mr. Grimond

May I venture to refer to the Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. J. MacLeod) and myself relating to crofting in Scotland and ask whether there is any chance of time being found for it?

[That this House, believing that a large and prosperous crofting population should be maintained in the Highlands and Islands of, Scotland, calls upon the Government to give immediate effect to the recommendations of committees set up in recent years in so far as they are directed to this object, or to make at once such further inquiries as may be necessary to ensure the best use of crofting land, the extension of small holdings, the creation of new holdings where possible. the improvement of houses and the encouragement of the existing and of new occupations within the crofting counties, so that the numbers and well-being of the crofters may be increased.]

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid not. I should have thought that when the Scottish Estimates arise again as they will, or on Scottish Estimates in the Grand Committee, that would be an appropriate time to discuss it.