HC Deb 31 March 1953 vol 513 cc1164-7

Postponed Proceeding on Amendment to Question, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered," resumed.

Question again proposed, "That' now' stand part of the Question."

Mr. Crookshank

I speak by leave of the House—

9.59 p.m.

Mr. Mellish

On a point of order. I had the Floor when the debate was adjourned at seven o'clock.

I shall not keep the right hon. Gentleman long from addressing the House. I hope that he has reconsidered the whole question, and recognises that what we on this side of the House have said was said in a conciliatory fashion, with due regard to the fact that it would be most unfortunate should there be a dispute. We believe, that the issues concerned are far too important to be debated in such a way, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that at least he will withdraw this Motion.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Crookshank

If I may speak by leave of the House, I would say that my previous intervention which I made after the debate had been in train for some time was designed to get over the difficulty that we had heard about arising out of our not sitting late on Friday and not sitting at all yesterday—the difficulty of having the opportunity of sufficiently considering the Lords Amendments and even the opportunity of putting down Amendments to them.

When I spoke earlier and made the suggestion that by taking this business tomorrow instead of today I thought that we could have got over quite a lot of our difficulty, I thought that that was true and I still think so. But that did not receive complete assent in all quarters of the House. It was an attempt to meet the situation but it was not acceptable.

Since then we have further considered the matter to see if we could continue the discussion tonight, but we have lost three hours on the debate on the Adjournment which has just concluded. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not lost."] Lost from the point of view of this discussion. The debate was of great value but I am not discussing the value of that debate. I am discussing it in the setting of the Lords Amendments to the Transport Bill. That state of affairs could not have been foreseen by myself or anybody else.

We feel, therefore, that perhaps it is rather late now to begin the discussion of the Lords Amendments. Inevitably the disarrangement of business on Wednesday and again yesterday led the Government to assume that, in the circumstances which were quite outside our control, we should receive some co-operation from the Opposition. I am afraid that our assumptions have been falsified. Our surprise—if I may say our incredulity —is all the greater because no protests were made by the Leader of the Opposition when I made the business announcement last week. Indeed, I go further and say that the fact that two Prayers were put down under the aegis of the Front Opposition Bench for tonight was a clear indication, we thought, that it was not expected by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that business on the Lords Amendments would be unduly prolonged. Otherwise, why put down Prayers on such an evening?

Be that as it may, for some reason not altogether clear to the Government, the situation has completely changed. An element of bitterness was introduced today, of all days, which certainly was not here last Thursday. I introduced no bitterness. I have merely been called names all day. We do not in any way desire to increase that bitterness. But we feel—and I must say this—that the game as played today and the tone of many of the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite was out of place and should not today continue any longer.

I hope, therefore, that the House can now dispose of the Question before it. In the view of the Government there cannot be any question of postponing the Lords Amendments for three months. What we propose now is to ask leave to withdraw the Motion that they be considered today. We intend to ask the House to deal with the Lords Amendments in the week after the Budget debate. The business for tomorrow will be as announced. If my proposals are accepted, I suggest that the most convenient course would be for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham. South (Mr. H. Morrison) to withdraw his Amendment, and then I and my right hon. Friend will withdraw the original Motion.

10.5 p.m.

Mr. H. Morrison

The Leader of the House, at the end of his speech, has reached a very wise decision, which will reflect the wishes and spirit of the House in all quarters, but I think he was unwise to lead up to it with controversial observations that really were not necessary. On the case that I submitted to the House at the beginning of the debate, supplemented by the later speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), and by others who have spoken in the debate, we made a complete and conclusive argument why the Lords Amendments should not be considered today. There has been an accumulation of circumstances, for unhappy reasons over which we had no control, and the fact of the early rising of the House on Friday, which made a material difference, and I think we made a perfect and conclusive case why these Amendments should not be taken.

I am only sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not see the force of the case earlier in the day. That case was made, there was no effective answer to it, and I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Transport started the day in a mood which suggested that the Government had so decided and that was the end of it. As the discussion proceeded, with the speeches from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies) and the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby), both of them based on good Parliamentary judgment and opinion, it became clear that the general sense of the House was that it really would not be decent, for a number of reasons, for us to proceed with these Amendments tonight.

Having said that, and, I hope, having answered the points made by the Leader of the House, let me add that I am very glad that he has come to this conclusion. It is the right conclusion that we should not proceed with these Amendments tonight, and it is right that they should be left until after Easter, and, indeed, until after the Budget. I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should have thought that it was necessary to be controversial, because I should have thought that the best thing for him to say would have been that he realised the feeling of the House and that, as Leader of the House and also the servant of the House, he would bow to the feelings of the House. That would have been better, and my task would only have been to thank him for it.

I still thank him, and I say that we accept the proposal that he has made. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment on the understanding which the right hon. Gentleman indicated —that the Minister will then withdraw the original Motion. In these circumstances, I would advise my hon. and right hon. Friends that there is no need for further discussion of the matter tonight.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.