HC Deb 21 July 1955 vol 544 cc566-72
Mr. Attlee

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will 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, 25TH JULY—Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, and of the Validation of Elections Bill, the Second Reading of which we hope to obtain Tomorrow.

Second Reading of the Sudan (Special Payments) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Committee and remaining stages of the Aliens' Employment Bill.

Consideration of the three Motions on the Order Paper relating to the White Fish and Herring Industry Schemes.

TUESDAY. 26TH JULY—Debate on Education in Scotland on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, until about 7 p.m.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which are expected to be received from another place this evening.

Consideration of the Motion to appove the Draft National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment (No. 2) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 27TH JULY—Second Reading of the Diplomatic Immunities Restriction Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Friendly Societies Bill.

THURSDAY, 28TH JULY—It is proposed to meet at 11 a.m. and to take Questions until 12 noon.

Adjournment for the Summer Recess until Tuesday, 25th October.

Mr. Attlee

I take it there is a possibility that the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary will be making a statement next week in the event of anything eventuating out of the Geneva talks. If so, will it then be possible, if that takes place, to have a debate on Wednesday?

Mr. Crookshank

The right hon. Gentleman and the House will realise that it is very difficult for me to commit either of my right hon. Friends in present circumstances, but I will inform my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of what the Leader of the Opposition has said and we will see how we get along.

Mr. Shinwell

Could the Leader of the House say when he proposes to present the Motion for the Adjournment of the House for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Crookshank

On Wednesday.

Mr. Shinwell

Do I understand that it will be taken early on that day?

Mr. Crookshank

It will be taken, as it always is, as the first Order.

Mr. Shinwell

The Leader of the House read out quite a number of items of miscellaneous business for that day, and they are exempted business. Does that mean that the Motion for the Adjournment will come on very late at night?

Mr. Crookshank

I have just said that it would be the first Order. The right hon. Gentleman said that on Wednesday there was a lot of business. There are just two Bills.

Mr. Yates

Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by more than 50 hon. Members, asking for a substantial reduction in the period of compulsory National Service? If so, can he say whether there will be any opportunity during the coming week of raising that matter, or may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, whether, in fact, such a matter could be raised on the Consolidated Fund Bill?

Mr. Speaker

I do not know that I could answer that without consideration. On this particular Bill, as I told the House yesterday, discussion would be limited to the Supplementary Estimates which we recently discussed in Committee and on Report. I would need to consult the Bill to see whether that matter would be in order.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

Has the Leader of the House looked into the matter, which he promised to do last week, of the absence of any opportunity to discuss the Report of the Royal Commission on East Africa? Is he aware that on both sides of the House there was an understanding during the last debate on colonial matters that such an opportunity would be given before we adjourned for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Crook hank

I would have to look up what happened in that debate before I could answer the hon. Gentleman. Last week the hon. Gentleman referred me to what I had said about the Business of the House and said that I had made a promise. When I looked up what I had said, I found that I had not given a promise at all. Now he refers me to a certain debate and I shall have to look that up, too, and see what was said. In the meantime, I see no opportunity of having a discussion on this subject before we rise.

Mr. Dugdale

Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no discussion took place on the subject of the Royal Commission's Report on East Africa during the recent colonial affairs debate because it was expected that there would be a debate on that subject soon?

Mr. Crookshank

I do not know what actuates the choice of subject which hon. Members chose to speak about in a debate. I am responsible only for what I have said about helping to organise the business. I have given no promise on that. Anyhow, I think that, on reflection, most hon. Members who are familiar with this subject will realise that such a comprehensive Report on so vast a subject really deserves a little more study than it has yet been possible to give to it.

Mr. Allaun

As the majority of the families in this country,are seriously concerned about the call-up for two years, and as the accounts of the Armed Forces will be considered on Monday's Bill, would it not be possible for a more definite and satisfactory answer to be given to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywoo6 (Mr. V. Yates)?

Mr. Yates

So far as I can understand, the question which I raised does not involve legislation, Sir. It is not necessary to have legislation to reduce the period of National Service and in the Schedule of the Consolidated Fund Bill there is power to pay the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Would it not be in order to raise this very important matter before we break up rather than have to wait for three months before it can be ventilated?

Mr. Speaker

My recollection of the Bill—I have not it by me, not knowing that a question would he asked on it—is that it deals with certain Supplementary Estimates for very definite sums of money which would apply to certain very definite purposes. As I explained yesterday, this is a very limited Consolidated Fund Bill. Only the Supply which is consolidated in the Bill can be discussed upon it. My recollection is—and I speak from memory—that there was no subject and no Vote or Estimate in the Bill which would allow this question to be raised.

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order. I believe that there are a number of items in the Consolidated Fund Bill which relate to provision for payment of members of the Armed Forces, and that that, obviously, would include some who are under compulsion to serve for two years. In those circumstances, and particularly because any reduction in the period of National Service is an administrative act, would it not be permissible to debate it?

Mr. Speaker

I am not at all troubled by the fact that a question of legislation might be involved. I understand that that is not the case. That is not what bars me; it is the content of the Bill. I cannot speak but from memory and of the Supplementary Estimates which went through and which are consolidated in the Bill, but my recollection is that there was no Vote A, for example, such as we have on the Army and other Services Votes, which deals with the number of persons to be called up. It is on a pure point of order. I am not dealing with the merits of the question, but with what is in the Bill.

Mr. Shinwell

I am sorry to have to ask a further question, Sir, but if any item in the Supplementary Estimates relates to the provision in any respect for members of the Armed Forces, particularly those serving under the National Service Acts, for example, for stores, accommodation, or anything of that sort, surely that can be debated.

Major Anstruther-Gray

Further to that, Sir, could not this subject be perfectly well raised on the Adjournment on Thursday?

Mr. Speaker

That is another matter.

To deal with the point raised by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), I do not think that, because there was an item of military expenditure in the Supplementary Estimate, it would permit a discussion on the period of National Service. However. I have not the Bill by me and, obviously, it is a question which I should look at to make sure that I have given the right answer. I have given the House, for guidance, the best answer I can on my recollection of the circumstances.

Mrs. Mann

Having regard to the long and loud protests of hon. Gentlemen opposite for six years at the length of each Labour Government's Summer Recess, how is it that they are so calmly acquiescent today about the still longer Recess of the Tory Government; or does it not matter whether they are in Recess or not?

Mr. Ian Harvey

May I seek your guidance, Sir, on a point of procedure? In view of the important announcement of appointments in the Shadow Cabinet made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition last week, will it now be in order to refer to the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen concerned as shady Ministers?

Mr. J. T. Price

In view of the fact that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation gave an indication to the House, about ten days ago, of his intention to discontinue or to abate the sale of British Road Services vehicles, could we be told what the Government propose to do next week, before we close down for three months?

Mr. Speaker

If the House will allow us to proceed, we may have a little fortune in that matter.

Mr. Robens

May I revert to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about a statement in the House next week on the result of the Geneva Conference? I understood the Leader of the House to say that he would refer this matter to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Secretary. Does he not agree that it would be most improper, indeed inconceivable, that the House should rise for three months without any report or statement, or opportunity of debate, on perhaps the most momentous world conference of all time? Will he, therefore, do more than refer this to the Prime Minister? Will he urge the right hon. Gentleman that a statement should be made so that at least before we rise for the proposed very long vacation we may have something to say about it?

Mr. Crookshank

I thought that what I had said to the Leader of the Opposition was acceptable. I am sorry that it was not acceptable to the right hon. Gentleman, but the Prime Minister will certainly be informed of the position and of the anxieties of the right hon. Gentleman and of the House. However, when a conference is going on it is difficult to commit oneself here and now to any particular time for an announcement. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition suggested Wednesday, and I was dealing with that aspect of the situation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) need not be anxious. This will be put to the Prime Minister and I have no doubt that he will do everything he can to suit the convenience of the House and the national interest.

Mr. Robens

But I am concerned that the House should not rise until we have had a statement. Would the Leader of the House consider whether the House should not rise at the time he indicated if the statement is not available by then?

Mr. Bellenger

Following on the point raised by my right hon. Friend, may I ask the Leader of the House whether the Prime Minister will be in his place in the House next week so that, if necessary, my right hon. Friend, or indeed anybody else, can put a Question to the Prime Minister on this issue?

Mr. Crookshank

I expect that my right hon. Friend will be back, but I cannot forecast how long the Conference will last. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish me to say anything here and now which might jeopardise anything there.

Mr. Robens

Then would the right hon. Gentleman answer my last question? Would he agree not to have the House rise until we have had a statement on the Geneva Conference?

Mr. Crookshank

That question does not arise at the moment. It is completely hypothetical.

Mr. Ross

I gather that we are to have a debate on Tuesday on Scottish education. I wonder whether the Leader of the House, when he tells the Secretary of State for Scotland about that, will also let him know that there is an important Scottish Committee meeting upstairs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that we would like to see the Secretary of State drop in now and again?