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Business Of The House

Volume 411: debated on Tuesday 29 May 1945

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I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the Business for this week, and whether he can also indicate what Business the Government desire to get through before the Dissolution.

I may be allowed to reply. We propose to proceed with the Business as announced for to-day, for to-morrow, and for Friday. On Thursday we propose to take the Motion to approve the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Order and afterwards consider the continuation of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts. These Acts, as the House knows, expire on 24th August and must therefore be renewed before Parliament is dissolved. The Government do not think that it would be right to ask the House to extend these Acts for a further 12 months. We propose, therefore, to introduce a short Bill extending the Acts for six months only. The whole issue will therefore have to be brought before the new Parliament before that period of six months expires. The Government hope that the House will agree to take all the stages of this Bill on Thursday. If there is time we hope there will be an opportunity of taking the Report and Third Reading of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Bill (Lords). On Friday after the Government of Burma Bill and Proclamation, if there is time, we propose to take the Motion to approve the Purchase Tax (Suspension of Registration Limit) Order.

I have also to make a brief statement relating to the Finance Bill. It will not be possible in the time available to proceed with the Finance Bill now before the House and the Government propose to substitute for it a much shorter Measure to cover only those matters on which legislation before the Dissolution is regarded as essential. These comprise the reimposition of the Income Tax and Surtax and the Hop Duty, the adjustment of the standard profits for Excess Profits Tax for small businesses, certain machinery provisions relating to Purchase Tax and the Clause concerning the fixed Debt Charge. Motions will accordingly be submitted to the House later to-day to authorise the withdrawal of the present Bill and the introduction of a new Bill based on those of the Budget Resolutions which related to the matters I have just enumerated. If these Motions are approved the new Bill will be available to-morrow, and the Government trust the House will be willing to give it speedy passage.

It will be necessary for the Government to ask the House to sit on Mondays, 4th and 11th June. We propose to meet at 2.15 p.m. but not to take Questions, except Private Notice Questions and Questions relating to Business. The purpose of these additional Sittings is, of course, to make progress with necessary Business.

As regards the Business of Supply, the public services must be provided for before the Dissolution. It will be necessary later for us to propose a Motion to complete outstanding Supply in a reduced number of allotted days. A Supplementary Vote of Credit will also be necessary for war expenditure, and a Supplementary Estimate for Civil Aviation. We shall also have to pass a Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

Finally, with regard to legislation, there are certain Measures which the Government consider are essential and others which it is desirable to pass. We are entering upon discussions through the usual channels between parties, and hope that, by agreement, it will be possible to complete work on a number of important Measures which are in various stages of progress. I hope that the House will allow me to defer making a definite statement on these until Thursday, in order to give us time to ascertain the measure of agreement which we can obtain in regard to a number of these Bills.

With regard to the extension of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts, do I understand that it is proposed to drop the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill, which is a Bill, as I understand it, which would have enabled the Government to deal with many matters of reconstruction which it is difficult to do under the Emergency Powers Act? Is it not possible to get that Measure through the House? It would be extremely desirable, having regard to the need for getting on rapidly with measures of reconstruction.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have not yet even made a start with that Bill, and in view of the amount of legislation which we do want to get through before the House rises I am afraid I do not see how we can achieve it.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this Bill is urgently necessary for purposes in connection with housing, with furnishing, and a large number of other matters? Now he proposes to hold over this Bill to somewhere in the dim and distant future, not earlier than the autumn, while letting the country get along as best it can in the meantime. Cannot this Government make up its mind about it? I ask in all seriousness, Is this Government so hopelessly divided about the future of economic controls which are so urgently necessary for peace that the right hon. Gentleman—

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, the delays involved in the General Election and the reassembly of the House form one of the reasons why I urgently demand an answer to this question.

The right hon. Gentleman really need not generate so much heat. He has asked a question to which I have already replied in replying to his leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

We cannot all speak at once. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we were not going to proceed with that Bill, and I explained why in the present state of Business—

I am stating the Government's position. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He asks at one moment why we do not make up our mind and says at another moment that we have no mind, and when I express our mind he complains about it. I have explained to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Leader of his Party, that we do not propose to continue with this Bill because of the amount of legislation which we have to get through before the end of this Session, and I added that we are extending the powers for six months just in order that there may not be the situation which the right hon. Gentleman has just deplored.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if there can be a suspension of the Rule on Thursday, as the failure to continue with this Bill raises very wide issues and needs very full discussion?

May I ask the Leader of the House, in defence of the rights of back benchers, why it is that if we are to sit on Mondays for the rest of this Session we should not have Questions on that day? A large number of Questions remain unanswered every day.

I had thought of that, but it will be only for two Mondays, and as the rearrangement of Questions would cause a great deal of extra work I thought that it would hardly be worth while.

Is not the whole of this situation due to the Socialist Ministers walking out of the Government?

In the announcement of the Business between now and the Dissolution the right hon. Gentleman has not provided any time or occasion when the House could express its views on whether it desires the Government that is now in office or not. Will there be no occasion before the Dissolution when the House will have that opportunity?

I have been doing my best, I hope with the approval of the hon. Gentleman, so to arrange Business that the country can be allowed to do that as soon as possible.

Is the Business for to-day exempted Business, or will the Standing Order be suspended?

May I ask—[HON MEMBERS: "Speak up."] May I ask the Leader of the House and his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to realise the embarrassment which the architecture of this Chamber imposes upon some of us? Further, may I inquire when the Government propose to ask the House of Commons to exempt them from providing for 15 allotted Supply days.

I am sorry if I did not make myself clear [HON MEMBERS: "We could not hear."] We are bringing forward a Motion to deal with that matter.

In view of the delicacy of the constitutional principle involved, and in view of the fact that control of Supply provides the effective control of the Government by this House, why have not the Government indicated an early date for the discussion of these exemptions?

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman, with a little reflection, would have been able to answer that question for himself. It is clear that our desire would be to give as many oppor- tunities for Supply as possible, bearing in mind the legislation we want to get through. I did not wish to commit myself about the number of Supply days until I could see what were the possibilities of agreement about legislation, such, for instance, as the Education (Scotland) Bill, about which I have been pressed, but I would wish to give the House an early intimation of what it is that we propose.

Why should the Leader of the House assume that the House would agree to a remission of the number of Supply days?

I think the House will bear me out when I say that I did not assume the decision of the House, but the Leader of the House is allowed to make a proposition to the House.

Owing to the difficulties of one in my position having an opportunity to express himself through the usual channels, may I be permitted to ask a question in connection with the General Election, to which I am certainly not opposed? Could there not be some reconsideration of the question whether the General Election could not be held in the last week of June, as in many areas 5,000 or 6,000 people will be prevented from using their votes due to holidays? In many parts of the country the people themselves are protesting, and I wish to know whether the Prime Minister will give this matter reconsideration, so that all the citizens of this country will have the same opportunity of expressing their point of view in this General Election?