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Business Of The House

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 2 November 1950

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May I ask the Lord President of the Council whether he has any statement to make on the business for next week?

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY AND TUESDAY, 6TH AND 7TH NOVEMBER—The Debate on the Address will be continued on Monday and brought to a conclusion on Tuesday. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you will be good enough to indicate today, for the convenience of the House, which Amendments to the Address you propose to call and on which days.

WEDNESDAY, 8TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Solicitors Bill and Committee and remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. It is hoped to obtain the Second Reading of this Bill, which is usually a formal stage, and the Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution tomorrow (Friday).

THURSDAY, 9TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

FRIDAY, 10TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Restoration of Pre-War Trade Practices Bill.

We think it would be more convenient for the House to take the Motion relating to Private Members' time at the beginning of business on Wednesday of next week. The arrangements are under consideration and we hope to be able to hand in the Motion on Monday.

I understand that discussions are still proceeding through the usual channels about the Strasbourg resolutions. Might I be permitted to submit to the right hon. Gentleman that time is important in this matter because people who are called upon to go abroad have to make their arrangements, and naturally they would like to know what is the course upon which the Government have decided. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has given his attention to this matter. Monday, 13th November, would be a very convenient day if the Government were able to give it to us.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated, this is a matter which we are quite prepared to discuss through the usual channels, and I have little doubt that some accommodation can be reached; but I am bound to point out that according to the official summary report of the Consultative Assembly—this is official from the Council of Europe—at Strasbourg the Leader of the Opposition stated that, for Great Britain, he would promise that their resolutions—that is to say, the Strasbourg resolutions—would be brought before the House of Commons through the procedural opportunities open to the official Opposition. Moreover, in "The Times" report it was stated that the right hon. Gentleman could guarantee that by the use of the facilities at the disposal of the official Opposition, all the resolutions would be brought before the House of Commons for discussion on their merits. I gather that the number of resolutions was 51. I do not know how many Supply Days, taking the right hon. Gentleman's own basis, it would have required in order to take all the 51 resolutions before the House, but notwithstanding that, I am a kindly and charitable person and we will see what we can do about it.

In view of the statements which the right hon. Gentleman has made about his intended process of self-reformation, I venture to submit that one of the first things for a good foundation is accuracy, because I made it quite clear that I would use my constitutional powers as Leader of the Opposition to see that resolutions of the Assembly would be brought before the House. It is quite true that if the Government declined that offer and refused to take any responsibility for it, then naturally we would have to use our ordinary rights; but I should be the last to wish to deprive His Majesty's Government of the opportunity of putting themselves more in line with the general movement of Socialist thought on the Continent. I hope they will not fail to give the matter the fullest favourable consideration. Indeed, I am encouraged by the tone which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted and, still more, by the nod which the Chief Whip has just given us, to think that the matter can be arranged if not through the usual channels, then by special and direct communication.

As I have indicated, we are feeling in a kindly and accommodating mood. However, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should be a little careful at Strasbourg not to give sweeping assurances as to what he will do out of Opposition time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Oh yes, I have proved my case—and then come back as if he had not given these sweeping promises at all. Still, I realise that the right hon. Gentleman is in a difficulty and, as I like him, I will try to get him out of it as best I can.

I did not in any way take too much upon myself. I said that I would do my best to persuade the Government but, if I failed in doing so, I would not hesitate to compel them. That is exactly the position.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has given consideration to a point I am going to raise, and, if not, will he consider it between now and the time when the Debate takes place? Do the Government consider it was good policy, or right, for the right hon. Gentleman to raise the question of defence at the Strasbourg Assembly, were the Government consulted before it was raised, and will the Government consider between now and the coming Debate what should be our attitude to future conferences when the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Members can go to the Strasbourg Assembly and speak over the head of this House?

I thought it would be for the convenience of the House if I indicated the course of the Debate——

I cannot raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker, but before we proceed to the next point, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he will give consideration to the points I have raised.

Then, on a point of order, Mr. Speaker, this question of the Strasbourg Assembly has been raised, important implications affecting this country are involved, and if a debate is to be arranged, then this House is entitled to know whether the Leader of the House will give consideration to the points that have been raised.

I have no doubt that everything the hon. Member has raised will receive consideration. We need not pursue that matter further.

I thought we would continue the general Debate on the Address until the end of Friday this week. There are many hon. Members who want to speak. There are still 80, as far as I know. There may be a few to spill over on to the last two days. Only 17 hon. Members spoke yesterday, which means just over two an hour. At that rate there will not be many more in the next two days. I am sorry, but I cannot help it. That is a matter for hon. Members themselves.

I thought that on Monday I would call the Amendment in the name of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot).

[But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech shows no resolve to ensure a steady increase in the rate of house building up to at least 300,000 houses a year.]

On Tuesday I shall start with the Amendment in the name of the Leader of the Liberal Party.

[But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no reference to the rising cost of living and makes no adequate proposals to relieve the growing burden of increasing prices on consumers, particularly on the lowest income groups.]

I hope we shall come to a decision on that very soon. Then I shall call on the other official Opposition Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan).

[But humbly regret that the only contribution in the Gracious Speech to the solution of the grave financial and economic problems which confront the nation is to make permanent the wartime powers of control by regulation already enjoyed by the Government, and to extend still further the State ownership of industry, instead of using their powers to halt the process of depriving the road hauliers of their livelihood and their customers of their services and to defer the vesting date of the nationalisation of iron and steel at this critical time.]

That will conclude the Debate on the Address.