HC Deb 17 March 1953 vol 512 cc2064-5
47. Viscount Hinchingbrooke

asked the Prime Minister whether he will recognise and confirm developing democratic processes by providing that formal ratification of all major treaties shall be subject to an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I do not see any need for a change in the present long-established and well-understood practice.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that what is asked for in the Question is an aspect of the more open diplomacy which is part of the purposes of the free world? Secondly, may I ask him, arising out of an intervention of his own on 9th April, 1951, which seems to show a similar desire, whether he would not provide that any forthcoming treaty which may result from the present conversations in Egypt will take its place beside those other major treaties of political importance since the war and be submitted for Parliamentary approval before ratification?

The Prime Minister

I really have nothing to add to my reply because it covers that supplementary question. It is a fact that major treaties are not subject to an affirmative Resolution unless they contain a ratification clause, and in many cases they do not.

Mr. H. Morrison

May I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not the case, in effect, that if there is a body of opinion in the House which wishes to challenge a treaty it can do so, and, therefore, the existing system in principle meets the point raised by the noble Lord? May I also ask the Prime Minister whether it would not be undesirable, as suggested by the noble Lord, that treaties should require the approval of the House of Lords as well, as otherwise they would be invalid under his suggestion?

The Prime Minister

I think that is a matter which the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord might discuss between themselves.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has it not been the constitutional practice since 1930, when it was introduced by the late Mr. Arthur Henderson, that any major treaty should not in fact be ratified until it has been discussed and approved in this House?

The Prime Minister

In my answer I made it clear that we do not intend to change the existing long-established and well-understood practice.