HC Deb 03 March 1955 vol 537 cc2242-6
Mr. Attlee

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal 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, 7TH MARCH—Committee and remaining stages: Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Bill.

Public Works Loans Bill.

Motions for Addresses relating to two Double Taxation Relief Orders (South Africa).

TUESDAY, 8TH MARCH—Supply [4th Allotted Day]: It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Army Estimates, 1955–56, and to consider Votes A, 1, 2, 8, 9, 10 and 11 in Committee.

WEDNESDAY, 9TH MARCH—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: Report stage of the Civil Vote on Account, 1955–56.

A debate will take place on the present position of the cotton industry.

Thursday, 10th March—Supply [6th Allotted Day]: It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Air Estimates, 1955–56, and to consider Votes A, 1, 2, 7, 8, 9 and 11 in Committee.

FRIDAY, 11TH MARCH—Private Members' Motions.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Could the Leader of the House tell us when time will be found for a debate on the Report of the Chambers Committee of Inquiry into London Transport, in view of the fact that it commends London Transport for its efficiency and offers some pertinent criticisms of the present Government's transport policy?

Mr. Crookshank

No, Sir; I have no suggestion to make today on that subject.

Mr. Stokes

Can the Leader of the House say how soon the Government will be in a position to give a reply to the recommendations made by the Select Committee on House of Commons Accommodation?

Mr. Crookshank

Not today, Sir.

Mr. Swingler

May I ask the Leader of the House a question which I put to him last week, namely, whether it is the intention of the Government, on the Service Estimates, to permit discussion on the particular Votes put down on these Estimates? Or is it their intention, according to the practice of last year, to move to report Progress after the discussion on Vote A? No doubt the Leader of the House will be aware of Mr. Speaker's Ruling last year about what is in order on a general Estimates debate. I submit that it is important for hon. Members to know whether it is the intention of the Government to allow Committee discussions in the Estimates debates, because, otherwise, hon. Members are forced to put all their Committee points into the speeches which they make on the Estimates.

Mr. Crookshank

I have looked into this in the light of last year's debate, and what I think will happen is that, at a reasonable hour, we might report Progress after completing Vote A. In the meantime, we shall have consultations through the usual channels about opportunities for discussion at a later stage on such of the money Votes as the Opposition may wish to discuss. In think that if we work on those lines, perhaps we will reach the most satisfactory conclusion.

Mr. Stokes

May I follow up what I asked the Lord Privy Seal earlier? Does he not remember that, at the beginning of November last year, the Prime Minister stated that the Government had the matter under consideration, but were not at that time in a position to make any statement? Will he at least look into the matter again, and let us know when the Government will be able to make a statement?

Mr. Crookshank

Yes, Sir; all I meant was that I could not off-hand say when.

Mr. Harold Davies

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will be prepared, after the Foreign Secretary's return from South-East Asia, to provide the House with a White Paper on the Bangkok Conference? Can he assure the House that we shall have an opportunity of discussing our foreign policy in the Far East as soon as possible after the return of his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Crookshank

I think we had better wait until my right hon. Friend does return before we start making any arrangements, tentative or otherwise, about a debate. On the hon. Gentleman's point about a White Paper, that is not a matter which comes within my own personal competence; but I will see that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is noted.

Mr. Wigg

If the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman to consider the form of our debates on the Service Estimates becomes a permanent feature of our debates, and we report Progress after discussion of Vote A, may we take it that further time will be given for discussion of the subsequent Votes? Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to consider, between now and next Tuesday, the great importance of giving a firm reply to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler)?

Mr. Crookshank

I thought I had indicated that we were having consultations on that matter. I am not today trying to lay down the law for all time. I am merely seeking how best we can meet the convenience of the House, remembering that last year, on two of the days when Mr. Speaker was moved out of the Chair, the debate went on until nearly 7 o'clock the next morning.

Mr. Wigg

No reasonable hon. Member in any part of the House would disagree with that, but it just is not good enough to have discussions between the two Front Benches. I am not saying that discussions should not take place through the usual channels, but this right of the redress of grievances in Committee of Supply is something which affects every back bencher on both sides of the House. I therefore thought that the right hon. Gentleman, in discharging the functions of Leader of the House, would be mindful not only of his obligations to the usual channels, but also of his obligations to back benchers in all parts of the House.

Mr. Crookshank

Yes, but I should imagine that the usual channels, just as much as the hon. Gentleman and myself, recognised the rights of the House.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Following up the question just put by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), may I ask my right hon. Friend what minority of figures the official Opposition has to reach before it loses its right to select a subject for debate in Committee of Supply?

Mr. Strachey

Will the Leader of the House recognise that the purpose which I think he has in mind, which we all support, will only be served if there are assurances given to every hon. Member of the House that, if an hon. Member does not raise what are called Committee points by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) on Vote A, there will be the fullest opportunity to raise them on a subsequent occasion, because otherwise that purpose will not be served?

Mr. Crookshank

That is exactly one of the matters under discussion, but we must not exaggerate the matter. This difficulty only arose last year and the year before. On previous occasions—and I think this is probably true of the time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) was Secretary of State—all the money Votes normally went through in under an hour.

Mr. Dugdale

When the Leader of the House talks about the discussions that are about to take place, I am sure he realises that there is to be a debate on the Navy Estimates today, and that the same trouble arises there. Can he tell us whether a firm decision can be arrived at which will relate to the Navy Estimates as well as the others?

Mr. Crookshank

I had in mind that the Navy Estimates were one of the three concerned in these discussions. If I am in a position to say anything later in the course of the day, I hope I may be permitted to intervene.

Mr. Mellish

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that on Friday next, when Private Members' Motions will be considered, there is due to be discussed a very simple, sensible, straightforward and honest Motion which merely asks the Tory Party to publish its accounts? Would he be good enough to use his influence with his hon. Friends, who are interested in the first Motion on the Order Paper for that day, to enable those who wish to talk on the second one to do so?