HC Deb 15 March 1951 vol 485 cc1773-80
Mr. Eden

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

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

Yes, Sir.

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 19TH MARCH—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Training) Bill, which are expected to be received from another place.

Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill—Debate on Civil Aviation.

TUESDAY, 20TH MARCH—It is proposed to take the Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill formally.

A Debate on a Motion to be tabled by the Opposition dealing with the Yorkshire Electricity Board and Building Regulations until 7 p.m.

Afterwards a Debate on the Opposition's Motion relating to the Nomination of Standing Committees.

Consideration of Representation of the People (Redistribution of Seats) (Scotland) Orders; and Purchase Tax (No. 3) Order (Domestic Appliances and Apparatus)

WEDNESDAY, 21ST MARCH—Debate on the Work of the Council of Wales and Monmouthshire, until 7 p.m.

Afterwards, the Government will afford an opportunity to debate the Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) relating to Privilege.

THURSDAY, 22ND MARCH—It is proposed to meet at 11 a.m. and Questions will be taken until 12 noon.

Adjournment for the Easter Recess until Tuesday, 3rd April.

During the week we shall ask the House to consider any Amendments to Bills which may be received from another place, and take the Second Reading of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill, which is usually a formal stage.

Mr. Eden

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that there has been a good deal of discussion about the day when we could have a debate on the question of a Supreme Commander of the Atlantic. Several times the Opposition and my right hon. Friend have put off this matter to enable the Government to prepare a White Paper. As I understand it, the White Paper will not be ready until after Easter, and if this is the position my right hon. Friend and my colleagues are prepared, in order to meet that situation, to postpone the discussion until after Easter. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to understand that this is to meet the situation about the White Paper, but we would have preferred to have the discussion a good deal earlier.

Mr. Ede

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I understand the position that he has taken up and I shall see that we have the White Paper as soon as the whole subject can be covered.

Mr. George Thomas

On the Business for Wednesday, may I ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the importance of the debate for the first half of the day and the limited time available to discuss the important topic of the Council for Wales, he will make approaches through the usual channels for Front Bench speakers on both sides of the House to impose on themselves a self-denying ordinance so as to allow back benchers to put their points of view?

Mr. Ede

I do not know how much my hon. Friend expects them to deny themselves, but I am quite sure that there would be a desire that some statement should at any rate be made by the Government with regard to their attitude towards what takes place in that discussion. I shall convey to any hon. or right hon. Friend of mine who is selected from the Front Bench to speak on the matter the views which have been expressed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the fact that the Business announced for between now and Easter does not include the Supplies and Services (Defence Purposes) Bill, the Second Reading of which was taken three weeks ago and was then said to be of so urgent a nature as to require all the remaining stages to be taken on one day, indicate that the Government have had second thoughts on this matter?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. We are trying to meet the convenience of the House.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Will the Leader of the House indicate as soon as possible after Easter that he will provide facilities for the remaining stages of the Matrimonial Causes Bill, which was decisively accepted by the House last Friday?

Mr. Ede

That Bill is going through the usual process which applies to Bills introduced by Private Members.

Mr. Churchill

I understand from what has been said earlier this afternoon that the Leader of the House is going to make a statement on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, or that the Foreign Secretary will make a statement, this afternoon on the question of the agreement which, we have heard today, has been made with Egypt. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Did I not understand that to be so? If I am wrong, perhaps the Leader of the House will interrupt me now.

Mr. Ede

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the invitation. What I said was that I would consult with my right hon. Friend, and that, if it appeared necessary and desirable, a statement would be made tomorrow. My right hon. Friend has to go to Paris tonight in connection with the country's business, and therefore it will not be possible for him to make any statement.

Mr. Churchill

May I give notice that, in the event of this statement being what we judge of an unsatisfactory character, we may have to ask for a re-arrangement of the Business on Monday or Tuesday, and that that will be discussed through the usual channels in order to permit us to discuss this Egyptian issue?

Mr. Ede

I do not think that there will be any difficulty about that. If the Opposition intimate—it is their time—that they would like to debate an issue other than those which they had put down before the business became public, we shall be perfectly prepared to discuss it.

Mr. Maclay

Will the White Paper on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation cover only the defence committee, or the structure of the other parallel committees of the organisation?

Mr. Ede

All these points were dealt with last week when the present Foreign Secretary answered, and I have nothing to add to what he said.

Mr. Snow

Will my right hon. Friend consider whether time should be given on some occasion to discuss the Motion standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister), the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) and four other Members from both sides of the House, requesting consideration of the amendment of the United Nations Charter in order to secure world government, a matter which secured the sympathy of that cheerful soul his predecessor?

Mr. Ede

I cannot say at the moment that I shall be able to find time for it.

Mr. Emrys Roberts

When will the remaining stages of the Leasehold Property (Temporary Provisions) Bill, be taken?

Mr. Ede

Not before Easter.

Earl Winterton

May I ask a question on what I would call procedural elucidation regarding the Motion which is to be discussed in the name of the hon. Member who raised the question of Privilege? Presumably time is not being given for this Motion in accordance with the ancient custom of the House that it is a Vote of Censure upon Mr. Speaker, because it is not in fact so. Presumably time is being given because it is the general feeling of the House that in these special circumstances there should be a debate on this Motion.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in a perfectly friendly way, whether it would not be advisable to make it clear that this Motion should not be regarded as a precedent? Otherwise, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Privileges and the House will be placed in a somewhat embarrassing position. Every day breaches of Privilege are committed, as the Committee of Privileges reported last year. Indeed, at this very moment there are preparations for a breach of Privilege in progress in a certain part of this House.

It would be open to any hon. Member—I suggest to the House that this is a serious point—each day to rise and call Mr. Speaker's attention to the fact that there has been a breach of Privilege, and if Mr. Speaker said that he was not prepared to rule that there was a prima faciecase then, if this instance is to be taken as a precedent, the hon. Member could, notwithstanding Mr. Speaker's Ruling, put a Motion down that the matter should go to the Committee of Privileges, and the whole business of the House could be held up. If it is held up in this Parliament I shall be very glad, but I was thinking of what might happen in a future Parliament. Would the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that this is not a precedent because it is sui generisin the present Parliament?

Sir Waldron Smithers

May I ask your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a similar point? The Motion down in the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and about 60 other Members asks that the matter concerning the conduct of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Rodgers) should be sent to the Committee of Privileges. May I ask how it is possible for this to be done—and I have an Amendment down on this point—when you have ruled that there is no prima faciecase? I suggest that the Motion is out of order.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The House of Commons has complete power. Whatever I rule, the House can reverse it. It is its right. I have a quotation for a precedent, although I have not got it in my head, from Mr. Disraeli, which assured hon. Members that they had complete power in these matters if they chose to exercise it. If they do so, it is their complete right.

Mr. Ede

When the noble Lord says that he is going to ask somebody something in a perfectly friendly way, I begin to scent trouble. The answer to his question is that the Government do not regard this Motion as in any way a reflection on Mr. Speaker. All that Mr. Speaker ruled was with regard to this Motion having priority. It was evident when the questions were being asked the other day in the House that there was a general desire by a large body of Members that the matter should be debated. The Government thought it right in those circumstances that a limited amount of time should be placed at the disposal of the hon. Member so that he could raise the issue.

Mr. Churchill

Is this Motion not a Motion to reverse the decision—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—as far as English can be plain, which you, Mr. Speaker, announced to the House, that after full consideration you declared that there was no prima faciecase for Privilege? If so, though no doubt it has no personal reflection upon yourself, the Motion does, undoubtedly, upset the Ruling which you have given on a matter of Privilege.

Mr. Ede

That is not the view that is taken, and there are several precedents for this course being followed. The issue that was decided by Mr. Speaker's Ruling was that the matter could not be given priority at the commencement of public business. May I say that it does not appear to me that we should spend time now in discussing matters that might very well arise on points of order—if they are still held—when the question comes to be discussed next Wednesday?

Mr. Churchill

In order to help the Leader of the House and his colleagues to do their duty in supporting the Chair, may I inform him that it is our intention on this side of the House to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne?

Mr. S. N. Evans

Further to the Ruling which you gave, Mr. Speaker, on the point raised by the noble Lord——

Earl Winterton

I did not raise a point of order. I asked a question.

Mr. S. N. Evans

Further to the guidance which you gave to the House, Mr. Speaker, following the contribution by the noble Lord, may I now ask, having full regard to the fact that, as you rightly say, the House of Commons can do as it likes, whether we should not also have full regard to the fact that, unless the House of Commons is willing to concede to Mr. Speaker a high degree of infallibility, the business of this House could not be carried on?

Mr. Speaker

I have made it clear that the House has a perfect right to do what it thinks best. The Speaker is human, and not necessarily infallible. He merely does his best. I have said that the House has its complete rights over matters of this kind. I really think, if I may say so, that instead of discussing this matter now, we had better wait for the debate on Wednesday evening, because this is only confusing matters and causing delay. I would suggest that we debate the matter on Wednesday evening and not now.

Mr. John Hynd

Arising from what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, I should like to ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman has declared that the Opposition as a body are opposing the Motion involving a matter of Parliamentary Privilege. Am I to understand that, in view of the fact that that was allowed to go without comment from the Chair, in future, matters of Parliamentary Privilege are matters which may be dealt with as party matters if they serve a political purpose?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point for me at all.

Professor Savory

I want to ask a question with regard to public business. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the promise given last week by his colleague to a most friendly question from myself that very shortly, the Bill of Indemnity for the former hon. Member for Belfast, West (Rev. J. G. MacManaway), will be brought in——

Mr. Ede

The hon. Gentleman will find that, when we pass from this question, the Bill will be introduced.

Lord Dunglass

May I bring the House back to the question of the White Paper on the North Atlantic Treaty organisation? My recollection is not the same as that of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not believe that we have been given any clear indication of what it is to' contain. This is an immensely complicated organisation, and it is very important that it should be understood, not only in this House but in the country and in Europe, so that people can see that it is an effective organisation. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore, see that a full account of all the committees—military, supply and economic, the whole organisation—is included in the White Paper, or alternatively, will he produce another one later on the same lines?

Mr. Ede

We intend to make the White Paper as full and informative as we can, consistent with our desire that people should be able to read the whole of it.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

May I ask a question on business? In view of the fact that it has been found possible to have questions on the morning of Thursday next, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the possibility after Easter of taking Questions and Prayers an hour earlier in the day.

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. I do not think that would be possible.

Sir Richard Acland

May I ask the Leader of the House sympathetically to consider after Easter, giving time for the Motion standing in my name and the names of about 100 hon. Members on Commonwealth and Colonial policy, or on some other occasion, on which the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations could make a statement with regard to his recent tour?

[That this House reaffirms its confidence in the course of British Commonwealth and colonial policy in the last five years and, whilst recognising the difficulties encountered today in communities where different races have reached different stages in development, calls upon white people everywhere to free themselves from the conception of racial superiority and to follow courses directed towards the brotherhood of man and based upon the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.]

Mr. Ede

There are Supply Days and there are still four days on which Private Members can give notice of Motions which they wish to raise. If there are such a large number of hon. Members, as the hon. baronet says, who are interested in this matter, they might stand a very good chance in the Ballot.

Mr. Keenan

In view of the difficulties which have emerged in recent debates at the end of Questions, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider allocating 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour to the Leader of the Opposition in which he might raise the questions he wants to ask?