HC Deb 29 July 1952 vol 504 cc1269-72

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to ask you two or three questions, and then to raise points arising out of what you say.

First, may I ask you whether you have been consulted about the new arrangements for business today? Secondly, is it not the case that it has usually been the practice for three or four days to be allowed for the Consolidated Fund Bill? My reference to that is page 298 of Erskine May. Also, am I correct in understanding that the Consolidated Fund Bill is exempted business? In asking that question, I am only desiring to safeguard our hard-won rights.

The next point which I raise with you, Mr. Speaker, in view of your office, is this: are there not important constitutional rights at stake in this business? Is it not a fact that one of the most important constitutional rights which the representatives of the people in this country have won is that their grievances must be remedied before we vote Supply? Therefore, are we right today in acquiescing in this change in business, since the Motion on the Paper will limit the business and there are increasing grievances of the people in many industrial parts of this country? Therefore, if we allow this to pass, is it not a new method of curtailing business in this House? May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you accept my line of reasoning as correct and if not, what are the precedents for this change?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member has asked me a large number of questions. First, was I consulted? I was told that it was the desire of all parties to have a debate on this Motion lasting for two days. In reply to the second question, the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill is, of course, exempted business. It is exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1. The general constitutional principle which the hon.

Member has enunciated of redress of grievances before Supply is a long-standing constitutional principle in this House. But that includes all the discussions we have had in the Committee and on the other stages of Supply. The Question at present before the House is, "That the Bill be now read a Second time." It is the general desire of the House, so I was told, to proceed at once to the Motion, but the Question now before the House is as I have stated.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I thank you for your reply, Mr. Speaker, but may I put this further point? I do not like using the word "I," because it is becoming customary to use it too much. You will remember, however, that no debate on the economic situation was suggested until it was proposed from a certain quarter two or three weeks ago. We have closely watched it because of its importance to the people we are representing, and now this Motion has for its object the curtailing of debate.

May I put this point to you, in fairness to yourself? In my view, the House has never been consulted with regard to a debate on the Motion. What we were consulted about was a debate on the economic situation. Various industries and interests are represented, and this new method of curtailing debate will prevent their grievances from being remedied. If, therefore, you can give an undertaking that the debate on the Motion will be allowed upon the same basis as is our right upon the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, I should think that the House would consider that.

Mr. Speaker

I should not give any undertaking of that kind. If the House were to proceed on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, it would, of course, be exempted business; but I must be quite clear that if the House agrees to the Question for the Second Reading of the Bill and proceeds to discuss the Motion, that would not be exempted business.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)

Is it not clear that the whole matter is still in the possession of the House and that anybody can raise practically any subject at the moment on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill before we begin to discuss the Motion which the Government are anxious to move? I should like to make that clear, because it is perfectly plain, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, that what we are now doing, if we pass the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill formally, is to surrender all the rights that normally are exercisable on the Consolidated Fund Bill and then to proceed to discuss the Motion, which is subject to the Standing Order time-table of the House. May we not have this pleaded against us in the future? If we do it on this occasion, it is because the House wishes to do it, but at the moment the House is in possession of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Mr. Speaker

The Question which I proposed to the House was, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Further to that point of order. I confess that I am not quite clear what the position is. I understand that in a moment or two someone will move the Motion, "That the Bill be now read a Second time." That is the Motion for the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill and that it is exempted business, and could, if the vote were not taken earlier, go on a long time if Members of the House wished so to continue the debate. What I do not understand is at what stage someone is going to move the Motion in the name of the Prime Minister, because it is clear, I suppose, that there cannot be two Motions before the House at the same time.

Mr. Speaker

The Order for the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill is an Order of the Day, and it has been proposed. I have proposed the Question to the House. The House cannot proceed to any other business until it has disposed of the Question which is before it.

Mr. Ellis Smith

There are recent precedents which show that difficulties have been created for the House from situations which were nowhere near as important as this to the people of the country, but it is not our desire that we should create difficulties. What we are concerned about is to safeguard the future. Therefore, having made the point, and provided that the House is agreeable, so far as I am concerned we can now part with the Consolidated Fund Bill, but 1 hope that this procedure will not be repeated.

Mr. Speaker

I trust that I have made the position perfectly clear to the House. The Question which I proposed to the House was, "That the Bill be now read a Second time." I should now think it is the desire of the House that I should put that Question.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House for Tomorrow.