HC Deb 24 March 1953 vol 513 cc655-7
Mr. Attlee

Has the Leader of the House anything to tell us about this week's business?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

Yes, Sir. As the House knows, the Second Reading of the Judges' Remuneration Bill was put down for Thursday. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] As I was saying, this business was put down for Thursday. Since that announcement was made last week, hon. Members will have seen that an official Opposition Amendment has been tabled. Representations have also been made from various other quarters of the House. These latter do not, however, affect the principle of increased remuneration for judges.

The Government consider that this matter is particularly one which, if possible, should not become the subject of Parliamentary dispute, and have, therefore, decided to postpone the Second Reading of this Bill until after the Easter Recess to give further time for the consideration of the representations which have been made.

At the same time, the Government wish to make it plain that they do not in any way depart from the proposition that an increase in the remuneration of Her Majesty's judges of the order proposed in the Bill is overdue, and they will proceed with legislation in due course.

The business which it is proposed to take on Thursday next is now as follows:

Report and Third Reading of the Prevention of Crime Bill.

Report and Third Reading of the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill.

Mr. Attlee

Was it not rather unfortunate that the Leader of the House did not take steps to ascertain the opinion on this matter of both sides of the House before putting down the Judges' Remuneration Bill for Second Reading? I think the right hon. Gentleman knew the opinion of this side of the House. May I ask whether this Bill will now be withdrawn and another Bill introduced at a subsequent date?

Mr. Crookshank

I will not go any further than the announcement I have just made.

Mr. Jay

Could not the whole fiasco have been avoided if the Prime Minister had listened more attentively to his own colleagues in the Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

I did bring this to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition nearly four months ago, and it was only after a very long pause that I learned from him that he could not guarantee that there would be no opposition. As to what happens inside our Cabinet, we have no need to break the long custom and rule upon the subject. If I were tempted to do so, I should say that I have never seen any subject upon which there was more united agreement than this.

Mr. H. Morrison

May I ask the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that this is eminently a Parliamentary matter, and an important Parliamentary matter— when the Government are not proceeding with a Bill—why an announcement was made to the Press last night? Why was an announcement not made in the first instance to the House of Commons, whose business it is?

The Prime Minister

It appears that there were leakages. Whether these leakages occurred through the usual channels or in other ways, at any rate very misleading statements were published in the newspapers and it was suggested that we had receded in some way from our resolve to carry the substance and value of this Measure into law during the present Session.

Mr. Morrison

Leakages do happen from time to time from both sides of the House; and they happen from Government quarters from time to time. But may I ask the Prime Minister whether that is a reason why, on a matter which was essentially House of Commons business—where a Bill was before the House and now is to be postponed—we were not told first? Why should not the House of Commons be informed in the first instance? Why does the Prime Minister persistently do things which indicate that he has not an adequate respect for Parliamentary institutions?

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the Leader of the House or the Prime Minister, whichever is in charge, say precisely what representations are to be considered by the Government before the Second Reading of the Bill after Easter?

The Prime Minister

The Bill was printed, I think on Monday last, and I think that perhaps we fixed the Second Reading at too brief an interval after that. It is a matter on the principle of which we have resolute convictions, as we will show, but there are differences of opinion on this side on the exact financial methods, as there would be on that side of the House but far partisan feeling. We thought it would be better to have a little more time, a few weeks, before this matter is considered in detail, but that in no way implies that the Government are not in resolute support of the solution which they have proposed.