HC Deb 13 June 1961 vol 642 cc381-3
Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I beg to move, in page 33, line 43, to leave out "twenty-eight" and to insert "seven".

Perhaps with that Amendment I can refer to the two following Amendments, in page 33, line 44, leave out "twenty-eight" and insert "seven", and in page 34, leave out lines 1 to 4.

In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said earlier, it appears that he is going to concede, at any rate, the principle of the last Amendment, which means the reckoning of time by calendar time and not merely by time during which Parliament is sitting, and that as regards the two other Amendments which seek to substitute seven days duration for twenty-eight days duration before confirmation by Parliament, he is willing to make some concession the nature of which at present I do not know.

I hope, therefore, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will help us by telling us immediately what he is going to do on those two matters, and if the result is satisfactory we may be able to come to an agreement, or at least to defer further discussion.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have given careful consideration to these Amendments and to the proposal which has been made. I think there is a very important point here. In asking Parliament to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Government of the day powers so extensive as these it is important to try to preserve the rights of Parliament.

I would have been prepared to accept the third Amendment—in other words, to deal with this in terms of calendar days and not Parliamentary sitting days. I should have thought in all the circumstances that a period of 28 days would not be unreasonable. I think there is a completely different consideration given to it if one concedes that it should be calendar days and not sitting days, and I should have thought that in this hypothetical circumstance it would be for the convenience of all concerned—because a certain amount of notice has to be given and it will take some time for the House to be recalled if it is in recess—that the period should be 28 days. I would be prepared to accept an Amendment, as I say, limiting this matter to 28 calendar days.

Mr. Mitchison

In the "grandfathers' war" I once went to market to buy a pig for Army purposes and there was a haggle about this animal which proceeded on traditional lines. I am inclined to think that the point about seven days and 28 days to that extent partakes of the character of a haggle about a pig.

I doubt if we should insist on the seven days, but, on the other hand, we do regard 28 days as too long. What I suggest we might do for the moment is, first of all, to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as I do, for accepting the third Amendment and, secondly, for the moment to let the earlier Amendment pass, but on the understanding that we return to it on Report unless the right hon. and learned Gentleman can see his way to make some concession in what for this purpose I am calling the price of the pig.

Mr. Lloyd

Without entering into all the details of pig purchasing or selling, I am certainly prepared to consider this matter again. One wants to do what one can for the convenience of Parliament. The main point is the concession that I have made, that it should be calendar days, and not sitting days. I will certainly between now and Report think again about this period with not too closed a mind.

Mr. Mitchison

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He will be most grateful to me for not having talked about the constitutional importance of this question, which really is considerable.

12 m.

Before asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, I would say that I do not ask to move the second Amendment, but I shall ask to move the third one which, in view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, seems likely to be accepted.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 34, leave out lines 1 to 4.—[Mr. Mitchison.]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

To report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Selwyn Lloyd.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.