HC Deb 20 May 1954 vol 527 cc2293-7
Mr. Attlee

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal to state the business for next week.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows.

MONDAY, 24TH MAY—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: Committee. It is proposed to take the Supply formally and then debate a Motion on Members' Expenses which it is understood will be tabled by hon. Members on the back benches.

Committee and remaining stages: Post Office (Site and Railway) Bill.

Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill.

TUESDAY, 25TH MAY AND WEDNESDAY, 26TH MAY—Further progress will be made in Committee on the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY, 27TH MAY—Television Bill: Committee [3rd Allotted Day].

FRIDAY, 28TH MAY—Private Members' Motions.

Perhaps I may be allowed at this stage to answer the question which I am bound to be asked today, because I am asked it every week. It is in regard to the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. At this period in the Session—[Laughter] Hon. Members had better wait to hear the whole of my statement. At this period in the Session, most of our time must be devoted to the consideration of essential financial business and to the concluding stages of legislation. We shall thus be unable to proceed in the immediate future with the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill, which, as it stands, would take effect from 1st July this year.

From the point of view of assuring the ultimate solvency of the account a few months' delay is not vital but the House will realise that the longer the interval the greater will be the deficiency that will have to be met. It is, therefore, the intention of the Government to carry through the Bill as soon as the pressure of the Parliamentary time-table permits, and, in any case, before the end of the present financial year.

Mr. Attlee

On Monday's business, can the Lord Privy Seal say whether it is proposed that there should be a free vote of the House on any Motion that will be tabled?

Mr. Crookshank

I should like to see the Motion before making any statement about that. There will be an opportunity between now and Monday for everybody concerned to discuss the matter.

Mr. Attlee

Can it be discussed through the usual channels?

Mr. Crookshank

Through the usual channels, if the right hon. Gentleman likes.

Captain Waterhouse

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity of considering the question I raised last week, whether time could be given to discuss the second special Report of the Estimates Committee? Before he replies may I ask him whether he is aware of the extreme difficulty which faces the Estimates Committee, a most important Committee set up by this House with very definite duties to perform, and which finds itself precluded by the rules of the House apparently from carrying out its duties as it thinks they should be carried out?

Mr. Crookshank

I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend knows the answer to his first question, because I have had the pleasant opportunity of discussing the matter with him and other hon. Members since last week. If there is a genuine desire in all parts of the House to have this matter debated perhaps it could be discussed through the usual channels, though I do not think that at this time of the Session it could be anything but for a short time for the reasons I have already stated, namely, that financial Measures are the chief things that we have to debate in the immediate future. But perhaps that can be discussed through the usual channels.

Captain Waterhouse

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he has said, but may I draw has attention to the fact that there is a little urgency in this matter because there are only about 10 working weeks left until the Summer Recess and certain steps have to be taken by the sub-committee if the House so desires?

Mr. Jay

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is essential that this House should retain control over the ever increasing volume of Government expenditure abroad?

Mr. Crookshank

That is not the real question at issue. That is only the question behind the question at issue.

Mr. Woodburn

Can the Lord Privy Seal say whether the relief that has been granted to the teachers in England will also apply to the teachers in Scotland?

Mr. Crookshank

I do not quite know what the right hon. Gentleman is referring to. I was speaking of the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill.

Mr. Woodburn

Does that relief apply to the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill for Scotland as well?

Mr. Crookshank

As far as I know there is only one Bill. It is not a question of relief at this stage, except possibly for hon. Members opposite.

Sir H. Williams

As there are no usual channels functioning in regard to Monday's business, and as somebody fixed up with somebody unknown to us to debate on Monday an unknown Motion, is it not about time that the rest of the House was treated with some respect and given some information?

Mr. Crookshank

The Motion has not appeared on the Order Paper, but I have an idea that its terms are well-known to quite a number of hon. Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I have not got it, but if hon. Members are drafting a Motion to put before the House, presumably, in the normal course of events, they will discuss it with other hon. Members. I myself cannot take it any further than that.

Mr. Yates

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a report from the Estimates Committee was issued to this House three years ago and the sub-committee then examining the matter was presided over by no less a person than the present Solicitor-General. The Committee actually reported to the House a suggestion that consideration should be given to the manner in which proper supervision can be exercised by the Committee over expenditure authorised by Parliament which is incurred in foreign territories? As no action was taken, and a special Report has been in the hands of the Government for five weeks, is it not reasonable to ask the Government to treat the Committee with more respect and give it an adequate opportunity to examine the expenditure? Can we have a definite assurance that the issue will be resolved in a very short time?

Mr. Crookshank

I cannot ever promise that any issue will be resolved, but I have no doubt that the hon. Member heard the interchanges between myself and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse). If there were a general desire in all parts of the House for a debate the usual channels could discuss whether it should take place and, if so, how much time should be available for such a debate. I said that I feared it could not be debated for very long. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Nicholson

In regard to the Estimates Committee, may I ask my right hon. Friend how he expects that the general desire of the House will be expressed? In regard to the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill, can he say whether any burden additional to that provided for in the Estimates will be passed on to the taxpayer by reason of the postponement of the Bill?

Mr. Crookshank

I really do not know, and I hope that 1 shall not be asked to go into the details of the Bill at the moment. I did say, in an earlier reply, that the longer the interval the greater would be the deficiency that would have to be met. As to how we can tell whether or not there is a general desire for a debate, I should not like to lay down any particular rule on the subject, but, generally, if we find that the Leader of the Opposition supports a movement in other parts of the House for a debate, it indicates that more than one group is interested.

Mr. Pannell

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the deficit which he envisages, owing to the delay in the introduction of the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill, is a responsibility of the Government because they are delaying this legislation? Seeing that the Government can no longer govern their own back benchers, ought they not to have the grace to get out?

Mr. J. Johnson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill is viewed with extreme dissatisfaction by teachers? Will he therefore, be less ambiguous and tell the House whether, as the teachers do not want it, he will bury it, or whether he intends to have it enacted in the coming Session?

Mr. Crookshank

On the assumption that the rule against repetition still applies, I ask the hon. Gentleman to study the carefully phrased answer which I have already given on this subject?

Mr. Osborne

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House who is responsible for the Motion that we are to debate on Monday? Since most hon. Members leave the House tonight and will not be here again until Monday—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh‡"]—tomorrow being a Private Members' day—is it not unreasonable to expect most hon. Members to leave this House in the knowledge that such an important matter is being discussed but without knowing who is to be responsible for the Motion?

Mr. Crookshank

I have an idea that I could almost speak for all parties in the House by saying that today will provide them with an opportunity of going further into the matter.