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Business Of The House

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 9 November 1950

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

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

MONDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER—There will be an opportunity for a Debate on the Council of Europe.

TUESDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER—Motion to refer the Local Government (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee for Second Reading under the provisions of Standing Order Number 60.

Second Reading of the Exchequer and Audit Department Bill and of the Super-annuation Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolutions.

Second Reading of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill.

Motions to approve the Calf Rearing Subsidy Scheme (Variation of Payment) Orders for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Scotland; and the draft Petrol-driven Agricultural Machines (Grants) Scheme.

WEDNESDAY, 15TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Festival of Britain (Sunday Opening) Bill.

THURSDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the European Payments Union (Financial Provisions) Bill; and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

FRIDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER—Further progress will be made with the Restoration of Pre-War Trade Practices Bill the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill and the Solicitors Bill.

We all realise, of course, the difficulties of making Bills available at the opening of a Session. But the Dangerous Drugs Bill, which is only presented this afternoon, is to be taken on Tuesday. It is rather a short time limit. The Festival of Britain Bill, also presented this afternoon, is to be taken on Wednesday, but that appears to be on the rather limited subject of the Sabbath on which most people have views that hardly require the enlightenment of a Debate. The European Payments Union Bill, although it is I understand a short Bill, does raise very large and complicated questions. It might have been better, I think, if it had been delayed until the week after, because it does require very careful consideration by those who have given study to the matter.

I am very much obliged for the understanding observations of the right hon. Gentleman. It is, of course, a matter of some difficulty at the beginning of a Session to get enough Bills forward so that adequate notice can be given. I should have liked to give more notice for some of these Bills, and for the shortness of the notice I apologise; though I think it is within the ability of hon. Members to master these Bills between now and the time at which the Second Reading will take place.

With regard to the European Payments Union Bill, it was for the reasons that the right hon. Gentleman has indicated that I held it over until the latest possible point next week, but I should be obliged if the House would be so good as to take it, otherwise we shall be in difficulties. I understand that the Bill will be available today, and I should be glad if the House would be good enough to take the Second Reading on Thursday. I admit that it is complex, and whether hon. Members in the pursuit of their studies between now and next Thursday will become thoroughly masters of the subject I cannot be sure; but I think that they must do their best and should be reasonably masters of the subject.

I think we must defer to the wishes of the Government in this matter.

Would my right hon. Friend give us some guidance about the Debate on Monday? He merely said that there would be an opportunity for consideration of the Council of Europe affairs. Will there be some Motion or some limit about this subject?

Yes, Sir. The Motion will be to the effect that the House takes note of the deliberations of the Council of Europe. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of saying that the Government are issuing two White Papers which it is hoped will be available in the Vote Office by three o'clock tomorrow. Friday, afternoon, relating to this matter. One will be the compilation of recommendations and resolutions adopted by the Consultative Assembly during its second session; and there also will be a White Paper on the meeting of the Committee of Ministers at Strasbourg, and the recent meeting in Rome. It is our desire to allow a wide Debate and it may be best for the Government to table a Motion, as I have indicated, drafted in simple terms, so that the House will have the widest practicable sphere.

In view of the increasing number of British troops engaged in Korea in the major operations, in most arduous and difficult circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman consider reverting to the previous practice in this House by which, when such major operations took place a statement was made from time to time, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, after Questions; or some document laid in the Library, informing the House—and through the House the public—of what is going on? We have had less information with regard to this campaign than we had in regard to any campaign which I recollect in all the years I have been in Parliament.

There was, of course, a White Paper on Korea quite recently. Nevertheless I personally and the Government agree with the principle which the noble Lord has enunciated. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence proposes to make a statement next week; and he, or other appropriate Ministers, will do so from time to time, as and when circumstances and events make it desirable. I hope that that undertaking will meet the purpose of the point raised by the noble Lord.

Would the statement include the number of casualties? Unless it is thought that the enemy would gain some great advantage by the disclosure of British casualties, there seems to be no reason why they should not be made public as they occur.

I think that is a perfectly fair point to raise. As the right hon. Gentleman says, unless we think it would be of benefit to the enemy, I am sure it would be a point that would be favourably taken into account by the Minister of Defence.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the statement of the Minister of Defence will be made in a debatable form? Because he will bear in mind that the House gave authority to the Government in this matter with virtual unanimity, I think one might almost say absolute unanimity, or very nearly so, on the occasion of the debate, when the proposals of the Government were before the House. But a great many people would have had serious doubts had they known at the time that the war was to be carried beyond the 38th Parallel.

I do not think that I had better get beyond the 38th Parallel. When my hon. Friend asks whether the statement will be made in a debatable form, I do not know quite what that means. It will be a statement in the usual way. If my hon. Friend means can a debate then ensue, I should not have thought so. I should have thought that the business of the House would thereby be embarrassed. I think that the statement had better be made in the ordinary way. I do not follow what is meant by "debatable form."

In view of the vastly changed circumstances since last the House of Commons had an opportunity of considering this matter, would it not be worth while to consider whether the House ought not now to have an opportunity of debating the further developments which have taken place.

I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for acceding to my request and to say, at the same time, that I entirely dissociate myself from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).

Without seeking to involve the noble Lord or any other hon. Member with any views I may hold, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not think it desirable that, in view of the heavy casualties that have taken place among the British Forces since the carrying of the war into North Korea, it would not be a good thing for the House of Commons to have an opportunity of considering the matter further?

We did have a Debate fairly recently, and I should not like to commit myself to a debate on the military aspects of the Korean hostilities.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that up to this morning the two agricultural Orders to be debated on Wednesday were not in the Vote Office? Can he say when they will be available?

I do not know, but I will see that proper inquiries are made into that matter.