HC Deb 23 March 1950 vol 472 cc2173-80
Mr. Churchill

Might I ask the Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House of Commons whether he has any statement to make on the subject of Business?

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

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

MONDAY, 27TH MARCH—Supply (8th Allotted Day).

Report stage of the Navy, Army and Air Estimates, 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 Vote required before the end of the Financial year.

Consideration of Motions to approve the Import Duties (Consolidation) Order and the Import Duties (Exemptions) (Newsprint) Order.

TUESDAY, 28TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Debate on Foreign Affairs.

Consideration of Motions to approve the Purchase Tax Orders relating to road vehicles and calendars, greeting cards, etc.

WEDNESDAY, 29TH MARCH—Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which it is proposed to take formally.

A Debate will take place on Fuel and Power on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

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

THURSDAY, 30TH MARCH—Consideration of the following Orders: Cinematograph Films (Quotas) Amendment Order till about 7 p.m.; and afterwards the Draft National Health Service (Superannuation) Regulations, and similar Regulations for Scotland.

FRIDAY, 31ST MARCH—Further progress will be made with the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill, and the Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on Tuesday, 18th April.

It may also be convenient for me to state that it is proposed to adjourn for the Easter Recess on Thursday, 6th April, and to meet again on Tuesday, 18th April.

In regard to the business tomorrow, Friday, after the Summer Time Order we desire to complete the Second Reading of the Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill, and then to take the Committee stage of the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill.

Mr. Churchill

With regard to the Business on Tuesday, 28th March, I understand we are to have a Debate on Foreign Affairs on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill. May we presume that this Debate will be opened by a statement by the Foreign Secretary?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that the answer is "No, Sir." The House will understand, of course, that it is sometimes right that my right hon. Friend should open, and sometimes he may have a discretion otherwise. This is analogous to a Supply Day on which the Opposition, within their right, have put down the question of Foreign Affairs, and my right hon. Friend feels that on this occasion it is reasonable that the Opposition should open and make their case, and that he should speak later in the Debate.

Mr. Churchill

But is this not a new Parliament? Have not, in any case, three and a half months passed since there was a Debate on Foreign Affairs? Are we not entitled to have from the Foreign Secretary the information which this Parliament lacks entirely upon the whole field of Foreign Affairs before we are ready to make our own statements? Why should the House be denied what any other House of Commons would, I think, have received at its inauguration, or in its first month of life, namely a statement, in times of grave needs, from the Foreign Secretary?

Mr. Morrison

Of course, there could have been a Debate on this on the King's Speech, but the Opposition had their own means of handling the King's Speech. I personally did not agree with them, but it was their own business. This could have been raised on the King's Speech. I do not see that the fact of a new Parliament is decisive. My recollection is that in the last Parliament the right hon. Gentleman sometimes complained if my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary opened a Debate; and he also sometimes complained, I think, if my right hon. Friend left it to the Opposition to open. We are always anxious to do as best we can, but I think that sometimes the Foreign Secretary ought to have some reasonable choice of his own so that he can be left free to open or to speak later.

Mr. Churchill

Can the right hon. Gentleman give me some instance where we complained of the House having the advantage of listening to a statement on Foreign Affairs by the Minister who bears these grave responsibilities? I cannot recollect any myself. No doubt it fitted in very well with the right hon. Gentleman's answer to say that when he could think of nothing better, but I should like to know whether he has any evidence of it. In the second place, may I respectfully say that we have tried as much as possible to keep Foreign Affairs above the level of ordinary party disputes, and have given a great deal of support to the right hon. Gentleman. Surely half the House has a right to be considered by the Foreign Secretary when they ask that a statement should be made at the beginning.

Mr. Morrison

The recollection of the Prime Minister and myself is that it has worked both ways, sometimes the Opposition taking one view and sometimes another—I am not complaining about that at all. But, it is really unreasonable to expect that the Foreign Secretary has always to make a comprehensive opening statement. This is, in essence, Supply Day time which the Opposition have claimed, within their rights, for a Debate on Foreign Affairs. Having claimed it, I do not think on this occasion it is unreasonable for the Foreign Secretary to take the view that the Opposition had better state their views and then he can come into the Debate later on. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that this half of the House does not wish to treat the other half with contempt. I must insist that the Government and the Foreign Secretary have a right to their opinions as well as the Opposition.

Mr. Churchill

Might I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that business is not likely to be advanced by the Government refusing to make a statement on foreign affairs? On the contrary, the resources of Parliamentary procedure enable us to raise the question, if necessary, on an Adjournment Motion. May I hope that the Prime Minister will say a word to the Foreign Secretary and inform him that it is the desire of this side of the House that he should open with a statement, otherwise there will be discursive interchanges between both sides of the House until he is pleased to get up? May I ask the Prime Minister whether he will make these representations to his colleague who is so closely associated with him in foreign affairs?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend will, no doubt, give full consideration to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but foreign affairs range over a very wide area. If the Foreign Secretary is expected on every occasion to give a kind of tour d'horizon all round the world, it is very difficult when there may be questions and points which the Opposition really want to raise. It is reasonable that the Opposition should raise their points and set the line of the Debate they want, rather than that my right hon. Friend should make a discourse which might be off the points they want to raise.

Mr. Clement Davies

May I raise another matter on Business, and remind the Leader of the House that last week I asked whether time could be provided for debating the Motion which stands in my name and the names of my hon. Friends?

[That this House views with deep uneasiness the treatment accorded to Seretse Khama; regrets that the Report of the Judicial Inquiry has not been published; and urges His Majesty's Government to reconsider both the publication of the Report and the decision to exclude Seretse Khania from his Chieftainship for a period of five years.]

The reply at that time was that that question should be postponed as a White Paper was being issued. As the White Paper was issued yesterday, will time now be provided for discussion of the Motion?

Mr. Morrison

I did not say that when the White Paper was issued time would be allocated. There was a suggestion that time should be allocated, and I said that the House would probably wish to look at the White Paper before making up its mind on the point. The White Paper has now been published, and although I cannot be dogmatic on what the House thinks, I think that the situation has improved somewhat after its publication. I am afraid my answer must be that I have no time available between now and the Easter Recess. I am very sorry, therefore, that I cannot oblige the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this respect.

Mr. Davies

Surely this matter raises vital and fundamental issues that not only relate to these people and their chief, but may have repercussions covering the whole of Africa and even a much wider area? May I ask the Leader of the House to consider that the country is now being administered, as far as one can judge, unconstitutionally against the will of the people? Is that not a matter calling for immediate Debate in the House which cannot be left standing until we come back after the Easter Recess? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that, as the matter stands after the publication of the White Paper, this Motion really amounts to a Vote of Censure?

Mr. Morrison

I do not want to be drawn into the constitutional issue of whether nine Members of the House have a right to compel a Debate on what they call a Vote of Censure Motion. I am prepared to Debate that at the right time, and I do not think this is the time to raise that issue. The simple fact is that I have no time between now and Easter, and therefore I am afraid that I cannot give it. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has got the thing a little out of proportion. I really do not think it essential that the Debate takes place.

Mr. Davies

May I make a final application to the right hon. Gentleman? Could not this matter be raised on the Consolidated Fund Bill?

Mr. Morrison

My view, subject to correction, is that time on the Consolidated Fund Bill is in the nature of Supply, which is the prerogative of the official Opposition. I should be loth to interfere with the constitutional and traditional rights and the prerogative of the Opposition, because they are vital constitutional rights as a check on the actions of the Executive.

Mr. Churchill

Would it not be possible for the matter to be discussed on the Motion for the Easter Adjournment?

Mr. Morrison

That, of course, is a matter for Mr. Speaker in allocating the time for the different subjects on that day.

Mr. Davies

Surely this is a matter requiring a much longer Debate. May 1 appeal to both sides that this is a matter which raises such fundamental issues that it ought to be debated by the House before we adjourn?

Mr. Hopkin Morris

is not the position, according to the right hon. Gentleman, this—that nine Members of the House have no right to raise an issue which affects the good name of Britain and its Colonial Government, and that no satisfactory answer has been given to that problem by the White Paper?

Mr. Morrison

The hon. and learned Member is not being fair. I did not say that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me whether I was not aware that the Liberal Motion was in the nature of a Vote of Censure. He was obviously raising the point that if it was, there was an obligation on the Government to find time for its discussion. I cannot concede that doctrine, even if the nine Members form a Parliamentary party.

Mr. Janner

Can we be given an indication of when legislation will be introduced on leasehold reform? My right hon. Friend will be aware that every day many people are being affected by the conditions as they stand at present. Will he press on the Commission to make their report and let us have legislation as speedily as possible?

Mr. Morrison

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend and I know the importance of the matter. I believe that the Committee are reporting as soon as they can. Clearly we cannot act until that report is received.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman give Government time before the Recess for a Debate on Malaya, where the situation has deteriorated rapidly in the last few weeks, including the new feature of incidents on the island of Singapore itself? Does he not realise that when these matters are lumped into a general Debate on the Far East or on the Colonial Vote, the House has no time to concentrate on this serious problem? Does he not remember that two years ago when I and other Members asked for a Debate in the Government's time, he pushed it off and then the most serious incidents occurred. It is up to the Government to provide time for discussion of this serious business, which may become a major crisis throughout the Far East.

Mr. Morrison

My recollection is that on that occasion I suggested to the hon. Gentleman that he might persuade the right quarters to make it a subject for a Supply Day Debate, but as regards the period between now and Easter I have not got the time available

Brigadier Medlicott

Does the Leader of the House contemplate being able to find time for a discussion of the Motion on crimes of violence which stands on the Order Paper in the names of myself, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) and my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton)?

[That this House views with alarm the recent increase in crimes of violence, especially against women and children; that it rejects as misleading and inaccurate the contention that these crimes are the result of military service or training and affirms that such a contention is an unworthy reflection upon British ex-Service men; and calls upon His Majesty's Government to set up an immediate inquiry with a view to bringing up to date the findings of the Cadogan Committee on Corporal Punishment.]

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid not.

Sir Richard Acland

Would my right hon. Friend sympathetically consider the possibility of extending Tuesday's Debate for an hour, because a good many Members may want to speak on that subject?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think that that is necessary.