HC Deb 28 October 1954 vol 531 cc2136-41
Mr. Attlee

May I ask the Leader of the House if he will state the business for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

Yes, Sir. Let me say first what it is proposed to do today. It is hoped that it will be convenient to the House to take the Second Reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance (No. 2) Bill and the Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution tonight, after the business already announced for today. As the House is aware it is the Committee stage of this Bill which is the effective stage, and the conclusion of the Second Reading today will enable Amendments to be tabled in good time.

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 1ST NOVEMBER—Debate on: Railway Reorganisation Scheme.

TUESDAY, 2ND NOVEMBER—Debate on: Middle Eastern Affairs, which will arise on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion to approve: Draft Coal Industry Nationalisation (Borrowing Powers) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 3RD NOVEMBER —Conclusion of the Committee stage: Food and Drugs Amendment Bill [Lords], by about 7 o'clock.

Committee and remaining stages: Expiring Laws Continuance (No. 2) Bill.

Proposed Amendments to Standing Orders relating to Money Resolutions.

THURSDAY, 4TH NOVEMBER—Committee stage: Civil Defence (Armed Forces) Bill [Lords].

FRIDAY, 5TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the following consolidation Measures:

Pharmacy Bill [Lords].

Trustee Savings Bank Bill [Lords].

Post Office Savings Bank Bill [Lords].

Committee stage: National Gallery and Tate Gallery Bill [Lords].

If agreeable to the House, we hope to obtain the remaining stages.

Mr. Mikardo

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say when he proposes to provide time to debate the White Paper laid during the Recess by the then Minister of Housing and Local Government on the subject of the operation of Exchequer equalisation grants in England and Wales?

Mr. Crookshank

I could not give a date for that.

Mr. Driberg

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is intended that the subject of Cyprus shall fall within the scope of Tuesday's debate? It would, of course, be in order in a debate on the Motion for the Adjournment, but I take it that it would probably be more convenient to have a separate debate on that. Can he say when it is likely to take place?

Mr. Crookshank

No, Sir. It is not for me to say what would fall within the scope of the debate, but the Chair.

Mr. Driberg

Yes, but can the right hon. Gentleman say when there is likely to be a separate debate on the subject of Cyprus?

Mr. Crookshank

No. I do not know. There has been no demand for a debate on that subject. I certainly cannot anticipate what my answer would be in that event.

Mr. K. Thompson

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer he gave to a question a moment ago about a debate on the White Paper on Exchequer Equalisation Grants, since there is a great deal of feeling in the country about this matter? Will he do what he can to find time for a debate at an early date?

Mr. Crookshank

I said last week that we are at present engaged on the concluding stages of the legislative business before the House. The sooner we get that done the more days there will be available for a variety of topics it may be desired to debate.

Mr. Attlee

Can the right hon. Gentleman find time for a debate on the Report recently published on Welsh Affairs?

Mr. Crookshank

The White Paper was published only last week, but I hope it will be possible, and I should like to arrange a debate very soon. I hope it will be possible before Parliament is prorogued.

Mr. H. Morrison

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why, almost every day, there appears on the Order Paper the item Teachers (Superannuation) Bill when it is quite clear that the Bill will not make progress this Session? The right hon. Gentleman flatly refuses every week to say when we are to take it. Does he not think that putting it down on the Order Paper is becoming rather farcical?

Mr. Crookshank

The right hon. Gentleman, on his return, has taken the place of his colleague who was the Secretary of State for Scotland in asking this weekly question. All I can say in reply is that I do not see our taking it next week.

Mr. Edward Evans

In view of the absorption of the Ministry of Food by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will the Leader of the House tell us whether he is able to devote time to debating a matter that has already been before the House on Second Reading of a Bill, namely, the appointment of a special Parliamentary Secretary for the fishing industry?

Mr. Crookshank

No, I do not see any prospect of finding Government time for that Private Member's Bill.

Miss Lee

Do the Government intend amending the Land Drainage Act, 1938, before the end of this Parliament? If so, would the right hon. Gentleman say when? Perhaps it would help the right hon. Gentleman if, before next Thursday, he were to consult the Minister of Agriculture. He would find that many rural areas have been making representations on the matter.

Mr. Crookshank

Yes, I am aware of that, but, really, this is not the day to announce the business for next Session. It is the Queen's Speech that does that.

Mr. Warbey

Shall we have a debate on the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty? I understand that in regard to the ratification of this Treaty the Government are following what may be called the Ponsonby procedure. That is the procedure laid down by Mr. Arthur Ponsonby, as he then was, on behalf of the Labour Government in 1924, under which a treaty is laid before the House for a period of 21 days and that then it is ratified unless there is an expression of Parliamentary disapproval. This Treaty was laid on 19th October and the 21 days expire on Monday week. May I, therefore, ask whether the Government intend to arrange for a debate on this Treaty on or before Monday week?

Mr. Crookshank

I do not know that any representations have been made disapproving this Treaty.

Mr. Warbey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, under this procedure, in the case of an important treaty the Government themselves initiate the discussion? Does this mean that the Government do not regard the Treaty as important, or are they trying to sneak through ratification without proper Parliamentary discussion?

Mr. Crookshank

No. Nothing sneaks through this House. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have known that.

Mr. Bevan

This is a serious matter. Is it not desirable that the House of Commons should discuss this before the Treaty is confirmed? Or are we suggesting that the House of Commons is now indifferent to putting very large numbers of British troops on the Continent of Europe indefinitely? Are we not to have a discussion about that?

Mr. Crookshank

I am not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman has seized the point. If he is referring to the European arrangements, then I can say that, of course, it is intended to have a full debate before Prorogation.

Mr. Pannell

Adverting to the affairs of the natives of these islands, and to the right hon. Gentleman's answer to a question just now about Exchequer equalisation grants, does the Leader of the House recall that there was a promise made by the last Minister of Housing and Local Government that the Government contemplated bringing in a local government reform Bill in 1955? Will he undertake to see that the new Minister is instructed in the elementary facts of local government to enable him to meet the task?

Mr. Crookshank

There is no need for me to instruct my right hon. Friend in the elementary matters of local government. He knows them.

Mr. Pannell

He does not.

Mr. Foot

To return to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey), in view of the fact that the Government themselves have said that the South-East Asia Defence Treaty is an important Treaty, will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that he will consult the Foreign Secretary and make a statement on behalf of the Government as to whether it is their intention that we should understand that the Treaty is ratified, even though the Government have proposed no debate in the House of Commons on the subject?

Mr. Crookshank

I did not quite catch the hon. Member's point, but, of course, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary heard what he said. It is not for me to lay down the Rules of Order, but I should have thought that the subject might well be discussed on Tuesday.

Mr. Foot

In view of the possibility that the Foreign Secretary might also not have caught my point, perhaps I may make it again. Will either the Leader of the House or the Foreign Secretary tell the House whether it is the Government's intention to have a debate on the ratification of the South-East Asia Treaty before the time limit for a debate has run out?

Mr. Harold Davies

In view of the fact that the South-East Asia Treaty affects the people of this country, because many of our young men might have to be sent to South-East Asia if ever the Treaty were brought into force, perhaps I may put this point to the right hon. Gentleman: it is understood that, under the Ponsonby rules, if a certain number of days pass without the House of Commons having discussed a treaty made overseas, then it is assumed that that treaty is ratified. I beg of the Leader of the House not to be facetious about this, but to tell the House, in a straightforward way, whether we are to have an opportunity to discuss this treaty before the assumption of ratification.

Mr. Crookshank

As hon. Members have pointed out, the procedure is well known to the House. Ratification is an executive act, but if there is a demand for a debate in the House or complaint against any treaty before it is ratified, then no doubt, just as debates took place in the past, no doubt they will take place in the future. But there has been no request at all by the Opposition for such a debate.

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