HC Deb 20 March 1952 vol 497 cc2553-8
Mr. C. R. Attlee

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

The Minister of Health (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

The business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY, 24TH MARCH—Supply [8th allotted Day] Report stage of Navy, Army and Air Estimates and of Civil Supplementary Estimates which were not debated in Committee of Supply yesterday.

These are Class II Votes relating to Foreign Service, Commonwealth Services and Colonial Office.

At 9.30 p.m. the Question will be put from the Chair on the Vote under discussion and on all outstanding Estimates and Supplementary Estimates required before the end of the financial year.

Further progress will be made with:

Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Bill.

Export Guarantees Bill.

TUESDAY, 25TH MARCH—Second Reading:

Consolidated Fund Bill.

Debate on Education.

Consideration of Opposition Motion relating to increased Food Prices Orders following the arrangement made across the Floor of the House last Thursday.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH MARCH—Committee and remaining stages:

Consolidated Fund Bill.

Debate on the State of the Textile Industry.

Second Reading:

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

THURSDAY, 27TH MARCH—Second Reading:

National Health Service Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money resolution.

FRIDAY, 28TH MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Attlee

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions arising out of business? There are two Statutory Instruments, Nos. 489 and 490, dealing with the utility goods revocation and utility goods maximum prices Orders. Would it be possible to arrange for these to come on at an earlier hour than if they were taken as Prayers after 10 o'Clock, as they concern very important matters which were raised in the Budget? Second, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Opposition would like to ask for a day for a debate on the Lisbon conversations before very long?

Mr. Crookshank

Taking the second question first, I presume that it will be discussed through the usual channels. In regard to Orders Nos. 489 and 490, I am not sure whether a debate on the state of the textile industry would not cover that point. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will look into that, as he has put that subject down for debate on Wednesday. I understand that it is also possible that these Orders would come within the ambit of the Second Reading debate on the Finance Bill. I recognise that they are very important measures.

Mr. Attlee

I understand that they would come within the scope of the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, but their detailed consideration, I think, must come on the Orders and they go a great deal beyond the general question of the textile industry.

Mr. Crookshank

Yes, I will certainly look into the matter. I recognise that they are very important.

Dr. A. D. D. Broughton

Would it not be more in keeping with the principles of democracy if the Government were to allow a day before Thursday for a debate on the Motion standing on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of a number of my hon. Friends? Could they not give the Government Whips a holiday on the allotted day rather than try to ride rough-shod over the will of Parliament and the wishes of the people?

[That this House is of the opinion that Parliament should proceed no further with the National Health Service (Amendment) Bill, in view of the additional hardship it would inflict upon people with small incomes and the harm it would cause to the nation's health.]

Mr. A. Blenkinsop

Could the right hon. Gentleman arrange to issue a White Paper dealing with the changes the Government have made in National Health Service charges since the Bill to be taken on Thursday was published? That would be of great value to the House before the debate.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro

Can my right hon. Friend give the House any further information this week about further debates on the large arrears of reports and annual accounts of nationalised industries, notably the three nationalised fuel and power industries?

Mr. Crookshank

My hon. Friend will recollect that that matter was raised last week, and that I said it could perhaps be discussed through the usual channels.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

If it be that there have been some changes in Government intentions as to the actual provisions in the National Health Service Bill, which the Press has said is the case, would it not be right that Parliament should have a White Paper or an advance Ministerial statement showing what those modifications are? Otherwise, the whole House will be at a disadvantage in debating the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I must request a reply from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know what idea the right hon. Gentleman has about his functions, but this certainly is related to the business for next week, Thursday in particular, and the House is entitled to an answer.

Mr. Crookshank

It is not necessary for me to deal with every rumour that appears in the Press on every kind of topic. The Second Reading debate will take place on Thursday, as I have said, and I leave it at that.

Mr. Morrison

The right hon. Gentleman is not only Leader of the House of Commons, he is also the Minister of Health. He knows whether these statements are untrue rumours or not and I do say that he either ought to tell the House they are untrue rumours, or give us some advance information as to what these modifications are to be. I ask him in both capacities—as Leader of the House of Commons, where he has a duty to the House as a whole, and as Minister of Health as well—to give us that information.

Hon. Members


Mr. Crookshank

The right hon. Gentleman is very clever at fishing inquiries, but on this occasion I do not propose to satisfy him.

Dr. Barnett Stross

Is the Leader of House aware that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will queue up on Thursday next to express their views? Could the time be extended by at least an hour on that day?

Mr. Crookshank

If that matter is raised through the usual channels, it can be discussed.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Following the difficulties in which the House found itself last week arising out of the Statutory Instruments dealing with food prices, the right hon. Gentleman will recollect that the Post Office charges and new Regulations were not discussed. Will he give the House time to discuss those very comprehensive Regulations, which were to be discussed last week at the same time as the food prices Orders?

Mr. Crookshank

I did not receive any representations on that point through the usual channels, and I am afraid that it is not in my mind. If that concerns Regulations which were time-expired, owing to the date having gone by, it was not suggested that any special procedure should be adopted in that case. But, of course, there are other opportunities to debate Post Office charges, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's constant reiteration of "the usual channels" that questions put other than through the usual channels are not worthy of his consideration?

Mr. Crookshank

Not at all. But on this particular point a very technical difficulty arose last week, which was not within the experience of any of us. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was present or not, but it was a matter about which none of us had any prior knowledge or experience, and we tried to settle it in the best way and at once. At that time no question arose about Post Office charges, and that was why I did not have it particularly in mind.

Mr. Hobson

Is the Leader of the House aware that these are the first Regulations in the history of the Post Office which it will be competent for the House to discuss, as heretofore most of them had merely to be laid?

Mr. R. T. Paget

Is not it a fact that when the Government brings forward important proposals the House is entitled to have notice of them before debating them? And if those proposals are to be materially changed, may we take it from the Leader of the House that the debate on Thursday will be adjourned and that we shall have a further opportunity of discussing any new principles brought forward?

Mr. Harold Davies

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the promise made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey), before the Recess, he will give the House an opportunity of discussing the problem of Malaya before we rise for the Easter Recess? There is need in the House for information.

Mr. Crookshank

That seems to me one of the subjects which, if there is a real demand for it, could very well be brought up on a Supply Day.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

The Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders of the Day.

Mr. A. C. Manuel

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if you will allow me to put a question to the Leader of the House? It is in connection with the debate on education next Tuesday. I wished to ask whether education in Scotland—as it comes under a separate Department, under the Secretary of State—could have a day to itself?

Mr. Speaker

I have no doubt that that question will receive an answer in due course, but we cannot go on discussing the business for next week indefinitely. We have a lot to do.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

On a point of order. Is not it a little unusual for questions on business to be curtailed? There were not so many hon. Members, so far as I could see, who were desiring to put further questions; there were only about two. One very important ambiguity about next week's business remains unresolved. With respect, I should have thought it might be helpful to the House to have the questions answered at the usual time.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is in error if he thinks that only a few hon. Members rose. I can see a great number of hon. Members from here. It is quite common when, in the opinion of the Chair, questions on business are unduly prolonged, to bring them to a conclusion after a reasonable time. The House has had a great number of supplementary questions on business, and I think we must push on.

Mr. Silverman

Further to that point of order, and again with the utmost respect, Sir. The function of the Chair in relation to supplementary questions at Question time is obviously in the interests of the House, because Question time is strictly limited, and we have to stop at half-past three. But there is no limitation beyond half-past three, and surely the House is itself the best judge of when it has sufficiently asked the questions which it wishes to ask about business.

Mr. Speaker

I have heard enough of that point of order to catch the drift of it, and the fact is that the House has other business before it besides questions.