HC Deb 01 April 1953 vol 513 cc1221-4
Mr. H. Morrison

Would the Leader of the House be good enough to state the business of the House for the week of our resumption?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

Yes, Sir, the business for the first week after the Easter Recess will be as follows:

TUESDAY, 14TH APRIL—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget.

WEDNESDAY, 15TH APRIL AND THURSDAY, 16TH APRIL—General debate on the Budget Resolutions and the economic situation, which will be continued and brought to a conclusion on Monday, 20th April.

FRIDAY, 17TH APRIL—Private Members' Motions.

Mr. Morrison

We shall all be interested in what the Chancellor has to say when he opens his Budget. May I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that there were discussions through the usual channels yesterday about some Prayers affecting trade in relation to China? We agreed to postpone them from yesterday to today and, we assumed that, as far as priority of business is concerned, that was acceptable. We are surprised, therefore, to see a whole mass of business on the Order Paper between the Government Orders of the Day and the Prayers themselves with the result that, in any case, it is doubtful whether the Prayers could be reached earlier than some time after 10 o'clock, or at any rate before 10 o'clock.

We feel that this was not quite the right thing to do and that the Prayers ought to have been put down next to Government business. We should like the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to look into it. I may add, however, for the convenience of the House, that we have decided, not only for that reason, but because of the general situation vis-à-vis China and the Korean discussions, that we do not propose to move the Prayers tonight but that we will take them after the Easter Recess when the time will be more propitious.

Mr. Crookshank

I understand that the Opposition are not proposing to move the Prayers today, so I do not think that it is a matter of very great consequence in what order the Prayers are printed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Resign."] As I understand the situation, they were handed in by the right hon. Gentleman himself last night.

Mr. Morrison

They were on the Order Paper yesterday and they were postponed until today. May I make an earnest personal appeal to the Leader of the House to exercise some degree of tact? I really was entitled to comment on the fact that all this other business had been placed on the Order Paper in front of these Prayers, which have been postponed from yesterday to today by agreement. If, at the end, I indicated that in the broad public interest, and in the interest of international amity in that part of the world, we ourselves had decided that we would postpone these Prayers until after Easter, was it not a thing which the right hon. Gentleman might have appreciated, instead of merely saying that their order was not a matter of very great consequence?

Mr. Crookshank

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman took me up so sharply. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends for not pursuing the matter today. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not have said so?"] I was answering the other point first and I am sorry if I was precipitate. I appreciate the gesture which the right hon. Gentleman made. All that I was indicating was that as that had happened it did not seem that the order in which the Prayers were printed made any difference. But if there has been any error on our part about these Prayers, I will certainly look into it.

Quite frankly, I did not understand last night that there was an intention to take them today, because the last words that I used before we adjourned was that business today would be as I announced it last week, and I did not announce anything about Prayers last week. I did not refer to the Prayers last night, because they had not been referred to in the business the week before and, therefore, I was not aware last night that there was any question of their being taken today.

Since then, however, we have understood, first of all, that it was the wish of the Opposition to take the Prayers and afterwards that they now generously withdraw from that position. That I gladly acknowledge and thank them for doing. If there is any error in the order in which the Prayers are printed on the Order Paper I will look into it, but in the circumstances I do not think that it makes all that difference.

Mr. Ede

It is important that we should get this matter cleared up. It is not the custom of any Leader of the House to announce when Opposition Prayers will be taken, but last night there was a general discussion in an endeavour to get out of some difficulties which we were in owing to yesterday's business. I, as the one whose name appears at the head of the Prayers, certainly understood that if we did not move them last night they would be moved tonight. The considerations announced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) have arisen since then.

All that I ask the Leader of the House to do is to make quite certain that when the Opposition desire to have a Prayer on a particular night the arrangements should be made or, if it is inconvenient to the Government to take them—and I do not think that that really arises on this occasion—there should be conversations. Those conversations should take place so that we should arrive at general arrangements in order that there should not be the inconvenience which the taking of Prayers at times inconvenient to one side of the House sometimes causes.

Mr. Crookshank

I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman. That has been our endeavour and will continue to be. I am only saying that last night it was not my understanding that that was what happened. I am sorry if I caused agitation in the minds of hon. Members opposite. I can assure them that if as a result of conversations about these Prayers a particular day is agreed upon we shall certainly see that they are put on the Order Paper in the right place.