HC Deb 02 July 1953 vol 517 cc584-6
45. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Prime Minister whether the statement made on 28th November, 1951, by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, to the effect that the Government would do everything possible to see that the affairs of the Council of Europe were debated in this House, still represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Lord Privy Seal. (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir.

Mr. de Freitas

Does the Leader of the House regard the fact that we have not had a debate over all these years as honouring the pledge given to parliamentarians from 13 foreign countries, all of which have learned, over the years, to expect the British Government to keep their word on an undertaking like this?

Mr. Crookshank

I have often answered Questions from the hon. Member and his hon. Friends on this subject. I said that we have not been able to find any time ourselves for a debate, but there are opportunities at the disposal of the Opposition, should one be urgently required.

Mr. de Freitas

May I remind the Leader of the House that it was the Home Secretary, speaking as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, who gave this undertaking?

Mr. Crookshank

I know, and according to the terms of the hon. Member's Question, it was to the effect that the Government would do everything possible to have such a debate, but we have not found it possible yet. That is the answer.

Mr. H. Morrison

Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember the Prime Minister, when in opposition, declaring in the most emphatic terms that it was for the Government to find time and not for the Opposition to supply time? It is no good saying what we said; I am saying what he said. The Prime Minister is now in power. How is it that the right hon. Gentleman is repudiating not only the statement of the Home Secretary at Strasbourg but the statement of the former Leader of the Opposition, who claimed that the Government should find time for this specific purpose?

Mr. Crookshank

Nobody is repudiating any statement of the Prime Minister; at least, I am not. I said yes, in reply to the question of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). All I pointed out was that we have not been able to find time in the immediate past or, indeed at the moment. I think the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to admit that during the last few months it has not been very easy to find Government time.

Mr. Attlee

Does that not seem to show that this subject has now become very much lower in the scale of priorities than it was when the Prime Minister was in opposition?

Mr. Crookshank

I do not think that that is the case at all.

Lady Tweedsmuir

In view of the fact that there is considerable interest in the Council of Europe on both sides of the House, cannot the Leader of the House reconsider this matter? There have been two short sessions of the Council of Europe, and the next one is to be in September. Could he not find time, even half a day?

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Is it the Government's policy to find time for Spithead but not Strasbourg?

Mr. Shinwell

Could we be told what the Patronage Secretary said to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) after her supplementary question?