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Business Of The House

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 17 February 1949

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After making my acknowledgment of that unsolicited tribute, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he has any statement to make about Business for next week?

Yes, Sir. The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 21st February—Second Reading of the Milk (Special Designations) Bill [ Lords] and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution;

Report and Third Reading of the Juries Bill;

Consideration of the Motion relating to the Summer Time Order, 1949.

Tuesday, 22nd February—Second Reading of the Colonial Naval Defence Bill [ Lords];

Second Reading of the Social Services (Northern Ireland Agreement) Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution;

Report and Third Reading of the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Bill.

Wednesday, 23rd February—Second Reading of the Consular Conventions Bill;

Second Reading of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Bill [ Lords] and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution;

Committee stage of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) [Money].

Thursday, 24th February—Supply (2nd Allotted Day); Committee. We shall resume consideration of the Civil Supplementary Estimates in the order in which they stand on the Paper.

Friday, 25th February—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will assure the House that His Majesty's Government have given the Opposition every facility to move the Vote of Censure which was promised last week on Government expenditure on Food and Health?

I can only say to my hon. Friend that we are quite ready to do so, and following on the vigorous declaration of war by the Leader of the Opposition last week, I expected far more trouble than now appears to be likely. I do not even know whether the right hon. Gentleman will take part in the attack upon the subject.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his memory is not sufficiently good to enable him to state honestly that I made it perfectly clear last week that the question of whether there would be a Vote of Censure or not, could not be decided until after the three days' examination of these matters in Supplementary Estimates—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—and that it would only be if the three days' Debate on Supplementary Estimates revealed the grossest miscalculations and shameful scandal that we should have to consider our position upon the subject. We are now only about to begin the first of these days. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not consider that it is a very shabby thing for the Government to try to ride off from being criticised on gross miscalculations, by the pretext and pretence that to criticise waste and mismanagement is to attack the principles of large measures of policy for which a Conservative Parliament was responsible?

I myself think—and I know that my right hon. Friends in charge of the Departments concerned share my view—that it is one of the most important duties of the House of Commons to watch Supplementary Estimates, especially if they arise in figures of some substance. Far from resenting the House examining this matter, we think it is an elementary duty of the House to do so. My only feeling is that the tempo of the examination appears to have utterly collapsed between last week and this, because I understood from the high-minded observations, almost amounting to a high-spirited oration, last week that we were to face a first-class attack, whereas now it appears to be an exact examination.

The decision whether the Government will face a first-class attack or not will entirely depend upon the amount of evidence adduced against them in the examination by the tribunal of the House of Commons.

Will my right hon. Friend say how soon we are likely to have an opportunity of dealing with this most alarming document which is euphemistically called, "Statement on Defence, 1949"?

I do not think my hon. Friend will be in Order if he seeks to explain them now. But he can be sure that early opportunity will be found for Debate on this subject, when the Government will, of course, be perfectly ready to explain and defend their position.

If in the course of the Debates on the Defence Supplementary Estimates, we are forced to commit ourselves to severe criticism of the mismanagement of the money spent on defences at present, I presume the right hon. Gentleman will be quite clear in his own mind that we are not thereby opposing any necessary measures for defence.

I welcome this statement of the right hon. Gentleman. If I may say so, it is a more balanced approach to this subject than he manifested last week.

In view of the alarming and unnecessary rumours about the position in Japan and the Far East, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he will give us an opportunity in the near future to discuss the whole question and get some information from the Foreign Office about what is going on in the Far East?

I think that would be a very fitting matter upon which the hon. Gentleman might make representations to his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench with a view to a Supply Day being allocated for that purpose if they so wish.

On the Business for next Tuesday, is the Leader of the House aware that earlier this afternoon the Chairman of Ways and Means indicated that the Second Reading of the British Transport Commission Bill would be taken at 7.0 p.m. on Tuesday and, that being so, will the Leader of the House say how that will affect next Tuesday's Business?

That is not necessarily fatal to next Tuesday's Business. We shall keep the point in mind. Of course, we shall have to see what eventuates on the day. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the Chairman of Ways and Means is quite competent to put down a Private Bill at such time as he thinks fit.