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Business Of The House

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Has the Leader of the House any pronouncement to make about tomorrow's Business?

It is proposed to resume and conclude the Committee stage of the National Service Bill tomorrow night at the end of the first day's Debate on foreign affairs, and we trust the House will be good enough to co-operate with the Government to this end.

Is it really necessary to take this important subject after a Debate of great significance at a late hour tomorrow, and, more particularly since this Measure is not to come into operation until 1949, could not it be taken next week?

The right hon. Gentleman has discharged the functions that I am discharging, and he knows that things must be fitted in. We have had nearly four days on the Committee stage of the Bill, there is not much to finish, and we think it would not be unreasonable to take it tomorrow night. It is true that it will come after an important Debate, but it will be a change of subject which should be welcome.

Will the right hon. Gentleman please understand that there can be no agreement between us on this matter, because we feel it is wrong to take this important Measure after the foreign affairs Debate?

In view of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly said that the Opposition are supporting the Government in getting this Bill through, and in view of the fact that, in addition to three days in Committee, we gave Friday for the Bill, it really is not unreasonable to allow this limited amount of additional work to be done tomorrow night.

Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is not the principle of the Bill that is at stake, but a question of treating the House reasonably on a major Measure? After we have had a whole day of debate on foreign affairs—the first Debate on foreign affairs for two months—we cannot but regard it as unreasonable to have to take this major Bill at a late hour.

No matter what the Leader of the Opposition may have said, may I remind the Leader of the House that the Prime Minister, in 1937, made a very eloquent plea that the House should have time properly to amend legislation which was going through the House, and that it should not be a mere assembly for registration? In those circumstances, I ask the right hon. Gentleman that, in connection with this great constitutional change, the House should be allowed reasonable time to amend the Bill.

The House has had ample time for the consideration of this Bill, and, in my judgment, it is a pity that the Committee stage is not already finished. On this Bill we are certainly not treating the House unreasonably.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he had spent as many minutes on the Front Bench as the rest of us spent hours in considering the Bill, he would realise that the discussion has come from all quarters of the House and has been on important matters of detail, and that there has been no attempt in any quarter to adopt dilatory or obstructive tactics?

As to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's observations, that is the kind of thing I should expect; it is the kind of aristocratic observation I should expect. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman knows the reasons I did not stay longer than I did, and he ought to take them into account. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman knows. As to the second point, I think the Bill has been given a very generous allowance of time in Committee, and I am aware—I do not charge the Opposition in particular—that my hon. Friends on this side of the House took up as much time as the Opposition.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he could save a lot of time and please his own people in the country by dropping the Bill altogether?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, on this Bill or any other Bill, when the House sits beyond midnight a very great hardship in inflicted upon hon. Members who for some weeks have balloted for the Adjournment and are unable to take it?

I am anxious that the Government shall meet the House as far as they can, but I am also anxious that the House shall co-operate with the Government in the despatch of business.

Might I suggest to my right hon. Friend that an easy solution of the problem of all-night Sittings would be to commence earlier in the morning?

As I have had the good fortune in the Ballot to draw the Adjournment Motion for tomorrow night, I should like to say that whatever the hour, I have every intention of pursuing the matter which I intend to raise on that occasion.

The Leader of the House made a very serious attack upon my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). [HON. MEMBERS: "He asked for it."] In view of that attack, will the Leader of the House tell us— because I do not know—what were the reasons why he could not be here on Friday?

Is it not obvious to the right hon Gentleman that there are many other hon. and right hon. Members who also find it difficult to be here almost continuously through the week; and is not this way of taking this Committee stage really tantamount to a denial of the pledge that this sort of Bill should have a full Committee stage on the Floor of the House?

This is not a very long Bill, although I agree it is an important Bill, which is why the Committee stage has been taken on the Floor of the House, but when it had had three full days and a Friday, it was not unreasonable to expect that we might have finished the Committee stage. In saying that, I am making no attack on the Conservative Party alone. I am making my observations to the House as a whole, all of whom—on this side as well as on the other side—made their full contribution to the use of the time.

Whatever cause prevented the right hon. Gentleman from being here during the all-night Sitting, has there been anything to stop him from reading HANSARD giving the report of that all- night Sitting; and, if he has done so, does he realise that no such charge can be brought against the House, or any quarter of it? Does he further realise, in view of his attack upon my right hon. Friend, that it is quite futile for him to seek to vie for the leadership of the Communist Party with the Minister of Fuel and Power?

Is it not rather unworthy of the best traditions of this House, and extremely unchivalrous, for reference to be made to the absence of my right hon. Friend, when everyone in the House knows the reason for that absence?

As the attack has been made on me, perhaps I should be allowed to explain. We are all aware of the recent illness of the right hon. Gentleman, and we sympathise with him, but he did make an accusation against us and others of wasting the time of the House on the Committee stage of this Bill. Certainly, we on this side of the House took it as an accusation. We quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman could not be here through the all-night Sitting, but we did sit the whole of Friday, and it was because of Friday that we were unable to finish the Bill. We still do not know the reason why it was not possible for the right hon. Gentleman to he present at our Debate on that day.