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Business Of The House

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 3 June 1943

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May I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he will state the Business for the forthcoming Sittings?

First Sitting Day—Supply (9th allotted day) Committee. A Debate will take place on Housing and Health in Scotland.

Second Sitting Day—Committee and remaining stages of the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill, and consideration of Amendments to the Catering Wages Bill which are expected to be received from another place.

Third Sitting Day—It is proposed to adjourn for the Whitsuntide Recess.

Can the right hon. Gentleman now state whether the Government will give a day, and if so, when, for a Debate on the Motion which stands in my name and in the name of Members of all parties, asking for a Select Committee on war pensions?

With regard to the specific Motion, I should not like to bind myself at the moment. I understand that the Minister of Pensions is making a comprehensive review of all those subjects which were raised in the recent Debate and suggestions put forward from other quarters, and until that review has been made I think it will not be reasonable to have the Debate. It will be better to await the result of that review being made, and the House will then be able to have a full Debate on the matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Select Committee which was set up in 1919 reported to this House within 3½ months of its setting-up upon all the contentious matters which were then disturbing people, and that 2½ months have already passed since we had a big Debate in this House? Can he assure us that the matter will be pressed forward? If the Minister has proposals to make which might render a Select Committee unnecessary, can he not tell the House, by answer to a Question, for example, so that we can consider our action before the Debate takes place?

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that this matter is being pressed forward. I have given full consideration to the suggestion made with regard to prior statements for information.

Is the proposal to undertake a review to be presented to the House by the Minister of Pensions in the form of conclusions? If so, could that not be made the basis of a Debate such as hon. Members desire?

That is another point which I shall take into very full consideration. Obviously it is one way in which there might be a Debate.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that this matter has been before the House for some time and that there is a certain amount of feeling on the matter? Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to make the most convenient arrangement at the earliest possible date, as I am sure it would meet the wishes of the House?

When is it likely that the Motion will be taken for continuing for another year the Emergency Powers Act?

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider fixing the pensions Debate for an early date, and in addition issue a White Paper with the Minister's proposals, so that we can have some idea of the remedies he is proposing to meet the situation? As to the Scottish Business which has been announced, in view of the serious and urgent nature of matters connected with Scottish housing and health, as is now admitted by all, is it proposed to suspend the Rule so as to give extra time for the discussion?

With regard to the first point, I have already said that that matter will be considered, but with regard to the Debate on Scottish housing and health, we shall consider the suggestion, and if there is a general desire for an extended Debate, it will be met.

It was difficult to catch the annoncement on Business over here. Is it intended to take the Committee stage and the remaining stages of the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill on the second Sitting Day?

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration between now and then that there may be a little controversy over this, and that he should content himself with the Committee stage alone?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make quite clear the pledge which he has given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood)? I understand that he has undertaken that at the earliest possible date there will be a comprehensive Debate on pensions. Do I understand from that promise which he has given that that is contingent upon a decision being reached by the Minister of Pensions, or are the Government as a whole concerned to see that the Minister of Pensions comes to some decision at the earliest possible date?

I do not quite see the difficulty. The point is that the Minister of Pensions is pressing on with this inquiry and reviewing all these subjects. As soon as he can come to a conclusion it is the desire of the Government that there shall be an opportunity for the House to debate it. I have also said that consideration will be given to issuing a Paper on the subject in advance in order that there may be that subject matter for the Debate.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that we have been asking for this Debate for weeks and weeks? In view of the almost unanimous feeling in the House that there must be some discussion, surely the Government as a whole will make themselves responsible for seeing that a decision is reached by the Minister of Pensions at an early date?

The noble Lord will realise that we had a Debate on 23rd March. A very large number of points were raised, and these are being looked into by the Minister of Pensions, and he has said that he is coming to a decision on these matters as quickly as possible. As soon as the Government have had those decisions, the matter will be brought before the House for discussion. I do not really think there is any difficulty. The Government desire to have this Debate as soon as we are in a position to have the decisions on which that Debate can be held.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the wishes for a discussion at an early date of the very widely signed notice of Motion in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Erdington (Group Captain Wright) and a great many other Members on the question of the trend of the population and the alarmingly low birth rate.

[ That this House views with alarm the continuing low birthrate and the resulting approach of a decline in population so steep as to menace the future security and prosperity of the British nation and race, and urges His Majesty's Government to adopt all possible measures, economic and educational, to avert this danger, including the introduction at the earliest practicable date of a scheme of children's allowances and improved social services, as already approved in principle by His Majesty's Government.]

I think it will be difficult to find time for a Debate on that Motion, but the matter can be raised very fully on the Estimates of the Ministry of Health.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, if I may refer back to' pensions, that the questions refer not only to the Ministry of Pensions, but that the Ministry of Health is involved, that the Ministry of Pensions on the one hand gives to dependants pensions or allowances, and the Ministry of Health takes them away. Cannot we have the whole matter examined either by a Select Committee or some Cabinet Committee, but some other committee removed from the Ministry of Pensions, because otherwise the answer will still be unsatisfactory?

That is a different matter. I was dealing with a specific point about the Ministry of Pensions.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give some indication as to about what time this House will be asked to approve the renewal of the Defence Regulations?

I did answer that question: perhaps the hon. Member did not hear my answer to the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), I think, sometime in July.

About the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill, I understood from the right hon. Gentleman's answer that he was intending to take all the remaining stages—the Committee stage and the Third Reading on the second Sitting Day. That means in fact that the Government have closed their minds to any Amendment, because there must be a Report stage if there is any Amendment. Might I ask him not to press on with all the remaining stages but to leave his mind open for the discussion in this House?

The right hon. Gentleman has said he is going to ask the House to take all the remaining stages of the Bill. May I ask him to leave his mind open to see whether amendment of the Bill is possible?

I only expressed a hope, as usual, that we might take all stages. We shall have to see how it goes.

I view of the serious position in the coalfields, and the request of the Prime Minister, will an early opportunity be given to the House for a discussion on the coal situation?