HC Deb 22 February 1951 vol 484 cc1464-9
Mr. Eden

Can the Leader of the House tell us the business for next week?

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

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

MONDAY, 26TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Training) Bill; and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

TUESDAY, 27TH FEBRUARY—Supply (4th allotted Day); Committee stage of the Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments, Vote on Account, 1951–52; Debate on the shortage of Tinplate and other materials for food preservation and transport, until 7 p.m. and afterwards, a debate on the situation in Malaya.

WEDNESDAY, 28TH FEBRUARY—Committee and remaining stages of the Export Guarantees Bill; Report and Third Reading of the Alkali, &c., Works Regulation (Scotland) Bill; and Committee stage of the Overseas Resources Development Bill.

THURSDAY, 1ST MARCH—Committee and, if possible, remaining stages of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Training) Bill. In view of the urgency of this Bill, the Government hope that it will be possible to complete all stages next week.

FRIDAY, 2ND MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

If there is an opportunity during the week, further progress will be made with the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Bill.

Miss Irene Ward

In view of the importance of international affairs at the moment, could the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a senior Minister or the Minister of State to answer questions about foreign affairs until the return of the Foreign Secretary?

Mr. Morrison

I understood that the Minister of State had answered some of the Foreign Office Questions and that others had been answered by the Under-Secretary. If that is so, I do not think that is unreasonable.

Mr. Leslie Hale

Will my right hon. Friend take note of the fact that recently Private Members' Bills have not been available until the very last moment and it has been impossible to put down Amendments or Motions in relation to them? Will he make necessary recommendations about this? Secondly, has he observed a Motion in my name on the Order Paper. No one was called to speak for it in the two-day debate last week. Can he find time for discussion of the question of the peace of the world and of peace generally?

[That this House affirms its earnest desire that His Majesty's Government should continue to seek to secure the peace of the world, and in particular to spare no effort to prevent a widening of the conflict in Asia; should maintain its policy of preserving democracy with a view to resisting the resurgence of totalitarianism in Western Germany and, following their initiative at the Colombo Conference, should make a forthright reaffirmation of their desire in consultation with the great Powers to lead in a policy of world cooperation for the development of those vast areas, whose inhabitants suffer from poverty, malnutrition and disease, so that the resources of the world now being so tragically expended in an arms race may be devoted, without distinction of race, colour or religious or political creed, to the raising of the standard of living of all mankind.]

Mr. Morrison

I will think about that. One must be careful about the principle that if hon. Members have Motions down they had better be heard. Otherwise, it would serve as an incitement to put Motions down and that might not always be convenient. However, I will keep the point in mind. The first point, I suggest with great respect, is one in respect of not only Private Members' Motions but also Private Members' Bills. Some of them have been put on the Order Paper or presented very late, with the consequence that it is exceedingly difficult for back benchers and others concerned to make up their minds about them. If hon. Members concerned with Private Members' Motions or Bills would appreciate that there is a responsibility upon them, as is there upon the Government, to present their matters in time for them to he considered, I am sure that everybody would be much obliged.

Sir Herbert Williams

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Matrimonial Causes Bill was introduced on 17th November and is down for Second Reading on 9th March and that it has not yet been printed despite the fact that apparently many of our constituents have been informed of its contents? Will he make representations to the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) to get her Bill printed?

Mr. Morrison

I am sure that will be noted, but this is a matter which affects both sides of the House.

Mr. H. Hynd

Can my right hon. Friend make any announcement about the dates of the Easter Recess and the Budget?

Mr. Morrison

We have only just come back from one Recess. Another Recess sounds a long way off to me.

Mr. Michael Astor

Can the Lord President tell the House whether the B.B.C. Report is likely to be debated before the House rises for the Easter Recess?

Mr. Morrison

I should not think that there was a great hurry about that. The Charter runs to the end of the year. Folks outside the House will want to think and talk about it which they are doing. The Government, naturally, want to consider it with great care. I would ask that we should not be pushed too hard about it just now, because we are not ready.

Mr. Henry Strauss

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, whatever may be the urgency of Members printing their Private Bills well in advance, that consideration applies even more strongly to the Government, and that we shall debate on Second Reading next Monday an extremely important Bill which was only available to hon. Members yesterday?

Mr. Morrison

I appreciate that, but, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that we are working under conditions of some emergency in these matters. I should not defend this as a classical instance of the right way to do it, but I think that it is legitimate in the circumstances of this case.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Has the attention of the Lord President of the Council been drawn to a Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), myself and very many hon. Members about old age pensions. Can he hold out any hope of an early debate on it?

[That this House urges His Majesty's Government to give early consideration to the need for improving the position of old-age and similar pensioners; to immediately relate all insurance benefits to the assumptions and principles of the Social Insurance and Allied Services Report, 1942; to ensure that arrangements be made to increase payments above the minimum scales, these to fluctuate with changes in the cost of living and any other reasonable expenditure for which provision is not made in the index; and to amend the National Assistance Board Regulations in accordance with the people's needs.]

Mr. Morrison

I do not see the probability of that at the moment.

Mr. John MacLeod

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if time can be found for the Motion standing in my name and the name of other hon. Members about the deplorable state of roads in the Highlands in view of the strategic significance of that region:

[That this House deplores the condition of the roads throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, which gravely hinders the economic development of agriculture, forestry, fishing, industry and tourism; and calls upon His Majesty's Government to undertake the immediate reconstruction of the road system in that region, especially in view of its strategic significance.

Mr. Morrison

I have no doubt that the Scottish Estimates will be debated in Supply in due course, and that that would be a perfectly relevant matter to bring up.

Mr. Osborne

With regard to Tuesday's business, can the Leader of the House give a little more time for discussion of the question of tinplate? Those of us who have canning factories in our constituencies are faced with problems of unemployment arising from the present shortage, and we should like more time to discuss it.

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Member has overlooked the constitutional proprieties. This is Opposition time. It is Supply, and it is, of course, for the Opposition Front Bench to make their own decision as to how it should be used. The hon. Member is complaining to the wrong man. I will tell him privately at whom he should "have a go."

Mr. Ellis Smith

We have rights under Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker, but I do not wish to take advantage of them without your advice. In regard to the railway dispute, we are drifting into a very serious situation. We welcome the continuation of negotiations and hope that they will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, but, if there is not a settlement, it would be wrong if Parliament adjourned this weekend without having an opportunity of considering the matter. Between now and this evening or tomorrow morning the authorities of the House should be giving consideration to this great matter of public importance so that the people outside may see that Parliament is interested and desires to seek a way out.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot arrange that, I am afraid. The hon. Member must do what he likes tomorrow. Private Bills will be taken tomorrow, and I cannot help him in that situation. I think the hon. Member knows that one cannot have a Motion of definite urgent importance on Friday, and it is obvious that it cannot be moved today in view of the situation. Therefore, there is nothing to be done at the moment. I am powerless.

Mr. Smith

That is the difficulty in which we find ourselves, Mr. Speaker. As tomorrow is Friday, it will mean that the House will adjourn, and, if the negotiations do not reach a satisfactory conclusion, that will have a very serious effect in the country. However, I do not want to press the matter now.

Mr. Speaker

Let us hope for the best, anyhow. There will be no need to say anything tomorrow if, by some good chance, this matter is reasonably settled.

Mr. Collick

That is the hope of those of us who are specially interested in the matter.

Mr. Speaker

That is what we all hope.