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Business Of The House

Volume 443: debated on Thursday 30 October 1947

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Might I ask the Leader of the House whether he can make a statement on the Business for next week?

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 3rd November—Second Reading of the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Tuesday, 4th November—The Motion to annul the Control of Engagement Order will be considered until 9 o'clock. The Government have decided to give time for the consideration of this Prayer, as it will no doubt meet the general convenience of the House for the Motion to be taken at an early hour. Consideration of Motions to approve the Cinematograph Film Orders.

Wednesday, 5th November—Second Reading of the Burma Independence Bill.

Thursday, 6th November—Consideration of the Third Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, and the Government's proposed Amendments to Standing Orders.

Friday, 7th November—Second Reading of the Overseas Resources Development Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the fact that the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill affects a number of Defence Regulations, some of which are to be enacted and some abolished. To scrutinise this complicated Bill it is necessary to refer to the Defence Regulations in question, but how can this be done if no copy of them is available in the Vote Office? Bound copies are out of print, I am assured, and many of the individual regulations are not obtainable at the Vote Office here. Scores of regulations are referred to individually, and many of them are out of print. Would the right hon. Gentleman arrange for further time and opportunity to be given for the necessary information to be available to the House, and what measures can he take to secure that information being available? That is my first question.

The Defence Regulations are available in the Library for reference by hon. Members. I should have thought that the organisation of the parties could get over the difficulty by a study of the volumes there. If there is anything additional which we can do we shall be very glad to do it, but it is merely a matter of ascertaining, in cases of doubt in which the Opposition or other Members might wish to raise points of dispute, what is in the Defence Regulations. Some of them are available. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that some of them, of some age, are out of print, but they are available in the Library. The only thing of which I can think is whether it would meet the convenience of the Opposition—I am not sure whether it would—if there was a switch between the Business for Monday and the Business I have announced for Friday, which would mean bringing forward the Overseas Resources Development Bill to Monday and leaving the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill over to Friday. I may say that the Overseas Resources Development Bill was available to the House on 25th October, Time is shorter than one would have liked, but there has been reasonable time to study it.

Of course, the wartime Regulations are a matter of great consequence at the present time. On this side of the House we feel very strongly, as a national breach of faith between men and between parties, that the wartime Regulations, which were passed in such great numbers to enable us to save ourselves from conquest and defeat, should have been preserved very largely for the purpose of inaugurating a Socialist State-controlled system. Therefore, we should like all possible time to examine these changes, and to dwell upon them for the education and guidance of the country. It would certainly be an advantage if the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill could be transferred to Friday for consideration, but whether Friday gives sufficient time for the discussion of such complicated matters I cannot tell. At any rate, between now and Friday next it ought to be possible for the Government to give the necessary information to Members as to any Regulations which may not be available in print at the present time. It would also certainly give more time for the two volumes to be passed from hand to hand among Members wishing to take part in the Debate. Therefore, in principle, I am bound to say that I should like to see Monday's subject put off until the Friday.

On the other hand, the Overseas Resources Development Rill, which raises very large questions, would undoubtedly be benefited if a whole day could be given to the Debate instead of the half day of Friday. Therefore, it seems to me that in the suggestion which the Leader "of the House has considerately put forward, there is a good deal of advantage. The outstanding question remains whether in the interval we can have access to the documents on which we are to give a decision on Friday; whether copies of them can be made available. Also, I cannot at this moment say that the Friday would be sufficient for the discussion. After all, we have only a small part of the information before us. Otherwise, I welcome the suggestion of a transposition of Business which the right hon. Gentleman has made.

Perhaps we could leave it that discussion could ensue through the usual channels. I am sorry, but it will be necessary, from the Government point of. view, for us to have the Second Reading of these two Bills next week. We shall be quite prepared to discuss the question whether it would be practicable to make a switch between the Business for Monday and the Business for Friday. There are two points I would like to mention. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Friday as being half a day. It is not. It is not far short of a full day—in time. The other point is that I am afraid I cannot promise to reprint the Defence Regulations. My recollection is that they are two fairly hefty volumes. That would take a bit of doing in the time. If we can think of anything else whereby we can facilitate the researches of hon. Members, we will certainly do so. I think it would be well if the matter was pursued through the usual channels.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that almost every lawyer has a complete set—

Will the right hon. Gentleman please remember that it is not only Members of Parliament who want to have access to the. Defence Regulations, and not only for the purpose of discussing this Bill? Will he try to see that some of the most important laws in the country are readily accessible to those who want them and those who have to study them?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) was trying to say, people who deal with these matters, including lawyers, have all got them.

I do not want to cast any reflection on lawyers—Heaven forbid. I should have thought that solicitors, at any rate, ought to have copies of these Regulations. On the second point, do not let us over-estimate the importance of this Bill. Directly the Leader of the Opposition sees "Emergency Powers" or "Transitional Powers" or "Delegated Legislation," I am afraid he sees the social revolution staring him right in the face. I assure him—he may or may not accept my assurance, but I know this Bill—that there is really nothing very revolutionary about it.

As the right hon. Gentleman has suggested a certain transposition of the order of our Business, might I suggest an alternative transposition to him which might be more convenient? It is that Thursday's business, the consideration of the Government's proposed Amendments of Standing Orders and so forth, should be taken on Monday, and that the Second Reading of the Overseas Resources Development, Bill should be taken on Thursday. That would still leave what he had in his mind about the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill being taken on Friday, and give such opportunities as are possible for us to be acquainted with the details. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman does not feel able to give an immediate answer, he should allow it to be discussed through the usual channels.

Certainly, Sir. The matter perhaps is getting a little bit complicated for conversation across the Floor, but I shall be most happy to facilitate conversations through the usual channels on the suggestion the right hon. Gentleman has made.

With regard to the Business announced for Thursday, whether it is transferred or not, will the right hon. Gentleman afford an opportunity for discussion of the Motion which is on the Order Paper in the name of myself and a number of my hon. Friends from Scotland about the Scottish Estimates, the purpose being to provide further opportunities for the discussion of Scottish Business without encroaching on the business of the House?

[ During the present Session a Motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of Public Business to the effect that the Committee of Supply be discharged from considering the Estimates or any part or parts of the Estimates for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible and that such Estimates or part or parts of such Estimates be referred to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills for considera- tion on days specified in the Motion. The Question on such a Motion shall be decided without amendment or debate.

If such Question be agreed to, the Standing Committee shall consider the Estimates referred to them and shall report only that they have considered the said Estimates, which shall again stand referred to the Committee of Supply after the last day specified in the Motion.]

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that it is a matter upon which I would like to have a word with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I cannot give an undertaking, but we will consider it.

Based on the extraordinary situation which arose last night on the Prayer of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), and based on the fact that there were so very many hon. Members absent from the House, especially on the Labour side, would the right hon. Gentleman give us time to reconsider the whole of this basic petrol problem, which exercises the minds of so many of us in all parts of the House, and allow us to have a real Debate?

Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give time for a Debate on the Select Committee's Report about the Members' Fund? As he knows very well, it is necessary to pass legislation to alter the procedure of the Fund. A lot of money is being amassed now which could very well be spent by the Trustees.

I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I know of his interest and work in this field and I assure him we will do our best. We are in some difficulty about the time-table between now and Christmas, but I am certainly sympathetic about it and we will do what we can.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision not to have a reprint of the Defence Regulations? Quite apart from its value in the forthcoming Debate, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that the very Bill which is to be discussed continues in force a sufficient number of these Regulations to fill a whole page of the Bill; and if the Government must legislate in this way, surely, it is up to them to see that these laws are accessible both to hon. Members and to the public?

There is a physical difficulty about doing that between now and the Second Reading of the Bill. I gather the hon. Gentleman is on a more general point. The passage of this Bill itself will make a difference to the composition of the volume. If and when the Bill is through, I will certainly give consideration to the point the hon. Gentleman has raised.

With regard to the Second Reading of the Burma Independence Bill which I understand is down for Wednesday, and in view of the Question I asked the Prime Minister today, will the Government consider postponing consideration of that Bill in order to give the Anglo-Burmans time to make further representations?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister tells me that we have already had representations from the body to which the hon. Gentleman refers and they have been considered. The Prime Minister informs me that they have accepted the position. In view of the time the Bill has been available, I think it would be right to go ahead.