HC Deb 04 July 1955 vol 543 cc777-8
The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was asked last Tuesday about the arrangements for the consideration of Supply in the Scottish Grand Committee and he said that this was a matter which could be raised with me through the usual channels.

The problem arises from the arrangements which were made for Supply before the General Election. The matter was discussed through the usual channels and agreement reached to complete Supply for the year before the Dissolution rather than that the new Parliament should be faced with the urgent necessity of passing all the Estimates in its opening weeks. The Estimates were accordingly passed before the Election and finally appropriated by the Appropriation Act.

It was implicit in this arrangement that certain rights in all parts of the House would be curtailed and it it not only Members from Scotland who are affected. There have been fewer Supply Days on the Floor and the Scottish Grand Committee will be unable to have its customary six days on the main Estimates—because they have already been passed and are beyond recall.

The Standing Orders provide only for Bills and Estimates to be considered by the Committee. Supplementary Estimates are to be presented to the House this week and some of these relate to Scottish matters. They are, however, of such a limited character that I do not believe that a satisfactory debate on them could be arranged in the Committee.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 9th June in the debate on the Address that the Government would be ready to do their best to meet demands for debates which the Opposition might request. It was already proposed that there should be a day on Scottish affairs on the Floor of the House. In view of the circumstances and the representations which have been made, we are prepared to make available two additonal half-days for this purpose. I will do my best to fit in those two half-days before the Recess.

I hope that hon. Members will consider this a reasonable attempt to meet the disappointment which Scottish Members, like other hon. Members, have to suffer because of the unusual circumstances arising from the Election.

Mr. D. Johnston

While thanking the Leader of the House for his statement and the Government for their limited but very useful concession, may I ask whether consideration has been given to the possibility of amending the Standing Orders of the House so that the Scottish Grand Committee may consider matters other than Bills and Estimates remitted to it under Standing Orders Nos. 60 and 61?

Mr. Crookshank

That would be going a great deal further than the problem that arises out of this matter. We have done our best to meet the wishes of Scottish Members, and I hope that they will accept what has been done in the spirit in which it is offered.

Mr. Elliot

While thanking my right hon. Friend for this further opportunity of debating Scottish affairs, may I ask that he will not close his mind to the possible reorganisation of the Scottish Grand Committee so that it might be possible for it to apply itself better to the consideration of Bills and other matters referred to it from time to time?

Mr. Crookshank

That is, of course, another matter, which I know is very much in the mind of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Rankin

Can the Leader of the House say whether we shall be getting the earlier or the later halves of the two days which are being offered?

Mr. Crookshank

We can discuss that, but the two halves might perhaps happen to make one day.