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Business Of The House

Volume 437: debated on Thursday 8 May 1947

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May I ask the Leader of the House if he will state the Business for next week, and at the same time any modification in the Business for tomorrow?

Yes, Sir. In regard to Business tomorrow, we shall proceed with the Committee stage of the National Service Bill, which we hope to bring to a conclusion tomorrow, Friday. As a consequence, the Statistics of Trade Bill, Report stage and Third Reading, announced for tomorrow, will be postponed.

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 12th May—At the beginning of Business my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will propose a Motion for an humble Address to His Majesty, on the occasion of Their Majesties' return from South Africa.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 12th, 13th and 14th May—Report stage of the Town and Country Planning Bill, being the first, second and third allotted days.

Thursday, 15th May—Supply (4th Allotted Day), Committee. The Supply day will be taken formally, and afterwards a Debate on Foreign Affairs will take place on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday, 16th May—Conclusion of Debate on Foreign Affairs.

May I ask whether the Government will not reconsider the decision to rush the Town and Country Planning Bill Report stage through in three days? It is an extremely important and complicated Bill, affecting all classes of the population. There are more than 200 Government Amendments down already, and there will be a similar number of Opposition Amendments, and one of the days will almost certainly be entirely consumed by the recommittal Motion in the name of the Government. In these circumstances, could the Government not give more time for adequate consideration of the Bill?

This was settled on the Allocation of Time Order. It was a decision of the House and I think we must leave it there.

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that a decision of the House can never be modified? The Government brought about the original decision, and they only have to whip their Members into the Lobby to change it.

I am aware that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) has ambitions to be Leader of the Opposition, especially on Business, but he had better be careful about ambitions to become Leader of the House as well. This was debated on the Allocation of Time Order, and in fact an additional day was offered at that time, but it was specifically and somewhat indignantly objected to by the spokesman of the Opposition.

Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the brilliance of his repartee, and the dignity with which he conducts his present position, may I ask if it has not been apparent from the modification of Business for tomorrow how right we were when we protested two days ago against his tactics then, and ape we not likely to be right again?

Is the Leader of the House aware that when the Allocation of Time Motion was passed it was not known, and could not be known, that a large number of Clauses and a large number of Schedules would not even be discussed upstairs?

I do not think it would be in Order if I were to go into the controversial history of these Bills under the Guillotine—

I think it is a question of fact, but it is a question of what use—economical use—the Opposition makes of the time available.

Will ray right hon. Friend sustain himself in getting this Business through, in view of the fact that now we have overwhelming evidence that the country is overwhelmingly behind us?

The Leader of the House said that a decision of the House on allocation of time could not be changed. Is that correct, because on the Third Reading of the Transport Bill the decision of the House was changed, and a further amount of time was given by the Government? Surely it is quite incorrect to say that a decision of the House could not be changed?

Of course it can be changed, if the Government put down another Motion, but that means more time, and we do not think we ought to be called upon to accept it. The time to have got more time was when the Allocation of Time Order was made. My right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio offered another day, but it was specifically rejected.

In regard to the foreign affairs Debate, may I ask if it is the intention to allow a general Debate to range rather widely, as an increasing number of hon. Members are disquieted in regard to Far Eastern policy and wish to have that discussed?

The Debate is on the Adjournment, and it is a matter for Mr. Speaker as to whom he calls.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when he says there was an offer of an additional day, that offer was made on the condition that we assented to the proposals for the Committee stage, and it has now been proved that we were quite right in thinking that the time allotted for the Committee stage was insufficient? Secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman say that the additional day was offered in the belief that it was necessary, or unnecessary?

It is really no good the hon. and learned Member trying to get the best of both worlds. The Government offered the day, and it was rejected at the time. The Opposition must take the responsibility, and must not come pleading another story now. We still take the view, both on this Bill and on another Bill, that the amount of time allowed for in Committee was adequate for the proper consideration of the Bill if the Committee had conducted itself as a Committee, instead of conducting itself as if it were the whole House. [Interruption.]

On a point of Order, may I call attention to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, not for the first time among Ministers, has called in question in this House the proceedings of a Committee upstairs? I want to ask whether something could be done to stop the growing practice of breaking what is a Rule of the House, that we cannot criticise or comment upon proceedings upstairs. He used the actual phrase, "had the Committee conducted itself properly," and I suggest that is most improper.

I think, and I have already given a Ruling on this matter, that the conduct of the Chair of a Committee is not a matter for discussion in the House. Presumably, the Committee had been properly conducted, and one cannot criticise the action of the Chairman.

If Mr. Speaker orders me to withdraw, I will withdraw. I will not unless. I made no reference to the Chairman, no criticism of the Chairman at all, nor did I allege that the Committee conducted itself in a disorderly way. If hon. Members in Committee make speeches which are longer than they need be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—If hon. Members make speeches in Committee which are longer than they need be, and time becomes exhausted, it is not really fair to blame the Government. That makes no reflection on the Chairman of the Committee whatever.

On a point of Order. The Leader of the House has made a charge against the Members of a Committee which is sitting upstairs. That is a charge which is not made by the Minister in charge of the Bill. In reply to what the Leader of the House has said, if I might venture to quote something which was said upstairs, the Chairman explicitly said that there had been no obstruction in that Committee. I ask you to rule that it is improper for the Leader of the House, in discussing matters of Business here, to make charges against the conduct of Members in a Committee upstairs, which, under your Ruling, they are not allowed to reply to?

It seems to me that the Committee having reported to this House, one is entitled to read the proceedings of that Committee, and to form one's own opinion. I have expressed the view that if the Chairman has conducted the Committee properly, to criticise Members for taking too long over their speeches and that sort of thing is a little unfortunate.

I did not ask anyone to withdraw anything. If I want anyone to withdraw, I will say so.

On a point of Order. Has it not been customary for many centuries in this House, when hon. Members have resented anything on which the Chair has expressed itself unfavourably, to invite the hon. or right hon. Gentlemen who have made use of such an unfortunate expression, to withdraw?

Further to that point of Order. Is it not the right of hon. Members to call out the word "Withdraw" when they resent something?

Hon. Members are supposed always to conduct themselves in an orderly manner. Sometimes, the shouting out of words like "Withdraw" too long and too vigorously can be slightly disorderly.

Further to that point of Order. Do I understand that your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, is that we were not entitled, under the Rules of Order of this House, to shout "Withdraw"?

If hon. Members were entitled to shout "Withdraw," I also was entitled to say that I thought it ought to stop.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether his attention has been called to the Motion standing on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of about 4o other hon. Members regarding the treatment of dispossessed farmers, in view of the fact that particulars of several hundred of alleged serious cases have been sent to him?

[ That this House calls upon His Majesty's Government to set up a Royal Commission to inquire and to make recommendations concerning farmers and smallholders who have been dispossessed of their holdings since 1939.]

Would the right hon. Gentleman try to give time for a discussion on that important Motion, which affects the rights of the ordinary British citizen, and will he remember that the farmers of this country will find more than one use for the guillotine?

I am afraid that we cannot find special time for that Motion. Perhaps the hon. Member would seek to raise it on the Adjournment, or on a Supply Day, if that should offer.

May I ask when it is proposed to take the Northern Ireland Bill, as it is important, when gentlemen have to be brought from overseas, that some lengthy notice should be given?

I cannot say when it will be taken. I gather, from the state of the Order Paper and the eagerness of hon. Members from Northern Ireland to take part in the Debate, that it is not likely to be overlooked, but I can promise the hon. Member that we shall not overlook it.

At what time is it proposed to conclude the discussion on the National Service Bill today? Is it possible to avoid a method for the discussion of the Bill similar to the unfortunate experience of last night?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, as he professes to be a good House of Commons man, whether he considers it consistent with the dignity and the duties of the House of Commons that major Measures should be passed through the House without any discussion, either in Committee or on the Floor of the House?

I have said nothing to lead anybody to believe any such thing. Certainly there has been plenty of discussion about everything in this Parliament since we came here.