HC Deb 01 May 1952 vol 499 cc1660-5
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, 5TH MAY—Second Reading:

Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money resolution.

TUESDAY, 6TH MAY—Committee stage:

Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH MAY—Second Reading:

Agriculture (Ploughing Grants) Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money resolution.

Committee and remaining stages:

Empire Settlement Bill.

New Towns Bill.

THURSDAY, 8TH MAY—Committee stage:

Finance Bill.

FRIDAY, 9TH MAY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

During the week it is hoped to consider the Motion to approve the Ships' Stores Charges Order.

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether his attention has been called to the Motion on the Order Paper on the subject of collective punishment in Malaya, signed by 131 hon. Members on this side of the House, and to the two Amendments to it, signed by 138 hon. Members on the other side of the House? Since this means that nearly 270 hon. Members on both sides of the House want to discuss this subject on an early day—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—yes, they say so on the Order Paper, would he consider giving time for it?

Mr. Crookshank

No, Sir. I cannot at present. It sounds to me as if it might well be a matter for a Supply Day, which is in the hands of the hon. Member's right hon. Friends.

Mr. Driberg

But since rather more hon. Members on that side of the House have signed the Amendments than signed the Motion, surely it is the responsibility of the Government, rather than of the Opposition, to find the time.

Mr. Beresford Craddock

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the possibility of giving an early day for the discussion of the Motion on Imperial Preference standing on the Order Paper in the name of many of my hon. Friends and myself; particularly in view of the keen interest shown in this matter by the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon?

Mr. Crookshank

That seems to me to be a subject which might come up on a Private Member's Motion day.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Can the Leader of the House say when it is proposed to deal with the MacBrayne contract?

Mr. Crookshank

Yes, Sir. On Monday, 12th May, if it is convenient to the House.

Mr. John Baird

When may we have the Second Reading of the Dentists Bill, which has passed through all its stages in another place?

Mr. Crookshank

We have enough business with financial affairs to deal with at this time, so that I cannot yet set a date to it.

Mr. Baird

As this is a most controversial Measure, would it not be better to drop the whole thing?

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake excavations to discover what has happened to the British Museum Bill?

Mr. Eric Fletcher

Can the Leader of the House tell us when we are to have a debate on foreign affairs?

Mr. Crookshank

No, Sir. That, to some extent, rests with the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who may use a Supply Day for the purpose.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

Is the Leader of the House now able to say when the White Paper on the B.B.C. Charter will be available?

Mr. Crookshank

Yes, Sir. We hope in about a fortnight.

Mr. Morrison

And the transport policy of the Government. Can the right hon. Gentleman say when that will be ready?

Mr. Crookshank

I hope it will be available on Thursday of next week.

Captain Richard Pilkington

Regarding the Motion and Amendments on Malaya, is it not quite wrong to add together the number of hon. Members who have signed them? Do they not cancel themselves out?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

I desire to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a point of order for the guidance of the House. You will remember that a little time ago three hon. Friends of mine and myself joined in a Motion which we put on the Order Paper in relation to an incident during an all-night Sitting. I have twice asked, I think, since then, the Leader of the House to provide time for it, and on both occasions he has said that he has not yet had time to consider it. By today I thought the right hon. Gentleman would perhaps have time to consider it, and I waited to see whether any reference was made to it by him, but none has been made. The position now is that no time is available next week for the consideration of this matter.

This creates very great difficulty, and I ask your advice and guidance, Mr. Speaker. It is, of course, essential to the conduct of the business of this House that the Ruling of the Chair shall be accepted unquestionably at the moment it is given, but that unquestioning acceptance has always been subject to the right which Private Members have, if they dissent from it or have questions concerning it, to put down an appropriate Motion. It would be a repudiation of the whole basis upon which our Parliamentary proceedings are conducted if the right to put down that Motion, which is a corollary of the duty to accept the decision of the Chair, should be completely nullified by failure to find time for such a Motion to be debated, when, in fact, it has been put down. This must be at least as embarrassing to you, Sir, as to the House of Commons itself.

There are two complications, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will be a little indulgent about this. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because this is essentially a Private Member's point, and not a party point. The first complication is that, in the delay which has occurred, it is being repeatedly said in certain quarters that the action by you, Sir, which is questioned in the Motion, was taken only to give effect to a private arrangement made between the two Front Benches, of which the rest of the House knew nothing whatever, and that, I suggest, is a matter on which you might wish to make some observations at the appropriate time.

The second important complication is that it has also been suggested in certain quarters that, somehow or other, hon. Members organised in parties and meeting in secret might have their votes in some way committed on a matter affecting you, Sir, when discussions and debates which are held to commit them are taken in secret and in circumstances in which you, Sir, have no opportunity of making any observations at all.

Having regard to all these considerations, I should like your advice on the remedy open to a Private Member who has done the appropriate thing in putting down a Motion and now would like time in which to discuss it.

Mr. Speaker

I would help the hon. Member if I could, but I am in this difficulty. I am entirely in the hands of the House, and I do not see how I can intervene one way or the other. The Motion is on the Order Paper, and I am in the hands of the House.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton

May we have a statement from the Leader of the House on this matter?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot ask for that.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Will the Leader of the House make a statement?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot ask for that. I think hon. Members had better consider the position.

Mr. Crookshank

May I be allowed to intervene? As far as I am personally concerned, this matter has been given very grave consideration. I recognise that it affects the House as a whole, the position of the hon. Member concerned, and, of course, the position of Mr. Speaker.

I did not think it was possible to afford time for this Motion now, because I had hoped that, perhaps, having put the Motion on the Order Paper, second thoughts might have occurred to the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I thought so: I can think what I like, I hope. I had thought that, perhaps, on further consideration—as so often happens when we do things in a hurry; I do not say that we necessarily repent at leisure, but we sometimes change our minds afterwards—the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends might not persist in the matter.

I was waiting to see whether, having made their protest in that form, they would think that their interests and the dignity of the House and others in this small incident might best be served by letting, the matter drop. That was the thought passing through my mind. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me to make a statement to the House, I have made one, but nothing is final in these matters. I only hope that the hon. Member for Nelson and Come (Mr. S. Silverman) may be agreeable to proceeding on the lines suggested.

Mr. E. Shinwell

While appreciating the difficulty in which the Leader of the House finds himself, quite unwittingly, may I ask if he does not agree that, if the hon. Member and his hon. Friends who have put down this Motion are not prepared to withdraw it, it is in the interests of the House, and particularly of Mr. Speaker, that the matter should be disposed of as quickly as possible?

Mr. S. Silverman

With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, may I say to the Leader of the House that I appreciate to the full the spirit in which he made his observations just now, and fully understand why he made his statement in that way. But may I assure him that my hon. Friends and myself did not put down this Motion light-mindedly or frivolously at all? We have given the greatest possible consideration to it, and, whatever the ultimate course may be, we would like to submit that it is in the interests of the House, and certainly of the Chair, that a Motion, having been put down on the Order Paper, should not be removed in a somewhat clandestine way, but should be dealt with in the way which the House would like it to be dealt with, in open debate in which everyone has an equal right to take part.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot help the hon. Member further. I am in the hands of the House.

Mr. Leslie Hale

May I put this consideration, to you, Mr. Speaker? There is on the Order Paper a Motion of censure on the Chair. Has it not been the invariable practice that such Motions should be discussed at once, and certainly should not be allowed to remain on the Order Paper too long? If the Leader of the House takes the view that we cannot, by this Motion, discuss the whole question of the application of the Closure, many of us will be forced to add our signatures to the Motion in an effort to bring pressure on the right hon. Gentleman to do what he most certainly ought to do.

Mr. Crookshank

I have informed myself about the matter, and what the hon. Gentleman has said is not entirely right. The Motion does not have to be taken at once.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps hon. Members will leave the matter there. I am in an unusual difficulty in trying to help the House.