Would the Lord President of the Council state whether he has any information to give us this afternoon about the course of business next week?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:MONDAY, 20TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Administration of Justice (Pensions) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution. Committee and remaining stages of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Bill; the Superannuation Bill; and the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill. TUESDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Public Works Loans Bill; and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution. Committee stage of the European Payments Union (Financial Provisions) Bill. WEDNESDAY, 22ND NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution. THURSDAY, 23RD NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the European Payments Union (Financial Provisions) Bill. Second Reading of the Festival of Britain (Sunday Opening) Bill. I am informed by the authorities of the House that the Examiner has reported to the effect that the Standing Orders relating to Private Business are not applicable. FRIDAY, 24TH NovEmBER—Consideration of Private Members' Motions. At some convenient opportunity we shall ask the House to consider an Amendment to omit paragraph 2 of Standing Order No. 39. It is felt that the war-time arrangement enabling amendments for Committee stage of Bills to be tabled before Second Reading, necessary at a time when legislation was being passed expeditiously, is undesirable in normal times, as it tends to concentrate the Second Reading debates on Committee points.
Could the right hon. Gentleman state whether the vote on the question of Sunday opening under the Festival of Britain (Sunday Opening) Bill, on the Second Reading, will be a free vote of the House?
No, Sir, not on the Second Reading. I did give an undertaking to the House, which, of course, will be observed, that the Bill had been framed in such a way as to make an Amendment on Committee stage—and I said the Committee stage—easy in order to challenge the point about the Sunday opening of the amusements section of the Festival Gardens, but on the Second Reading we shall have the Whips on.
Are not the two issues very much involved in this question of Sunday opening? Would it not be simpler to allow the House to express an opinion on both of them?
I have had some experience of free votes and it is very questionable whether it simplifies the issue, as the right hon. Gentleman and I knew during the war on the question of Sunday opening under a Defence Regulation. The issue on the Second Reading is that if the Bill were rejected none of the Festival activities, however innocent, could be opened although the body of Christian churches has taken the view that it is all right for them to be opened excepting the amusements section—[An HON. MEMBER: "Is this a Second Reading speech?"] No, I was asked a question. The Government take the view that it is right that the Whips should be on on the Second Reading, but that it should be a free vote on the Committee stage, which I believe is the point of contention.
Cannot these matters be taken into consideration by the House as a whole? There will be no intention on our part to put on official tellers.
What the Opposition does is, of course, their business, but the Government do attach importance to the Second Reading of the Bill, and on the Second Reading I am afraid we must have the Whips on.
That puts it in a different category.
The right hon. Gentleman may do as he likes.
I have one more question to ask the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to certain developments taking place in Egypt and certain statements reported today in the newspapers, could the right hon. Gentleman indicate when the Foreign Secretary would feel inclined and would feel it convenient to make a statement to the House on this matter?
I have been having a word with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and he tells me he expects to be ready to make a statement to the House early next week.
In view of the fact that a number of us on this side of the House are very disturbed at the course of international events, may I ask whether we shall have a very adequate opportunity of discussing them, including the proposed rearmament of Germany?
I think the House knows that the question of a Debate on foreign affairs is the subject of discussion through the usual channels and, therefore, the outlook is not unhopeful.
I think I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Festival of Britain (Sunday Opening) Bill would be the second order on Thursday next. Is he satisfied that it will leave sufficient time for a very large number of hon. Members who may desire to take part?
We shall keep that point in mind. The other business is the remaining stages of the European Payments Union Bill. I have a feeling that it is quite likely that that Bill will have been disposed of before Thursday, but if it were not, that would be a point to bear in mind.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that on matters of international relations, the usual channels have a habit of becoming a combined stream? Will he bear in mind that many of us would like an early opportunity of discussing international relations in view of the growing peril to the peace of the world arising out of the carrying of Korean hostilities beyond the 38th Parallel?
I am sure the usual channels will keep that point in mind. It is of course right that the usual channels should tend to become a stream because they are the peacemakers of the House.
May I ask whether the Government are to provide time to discuss the disastrous effects, both long-term and short-term, on Malaya which arise from the imposition of increased export duties on rubber within the new arrangements, without their being submitted to local legislative councils?
I am afraid I do not see daylight about that at the moment.
May I ask the Lord President of the Council a question of which I have notified him privately? On what date will he introduce the proposed Measure on leasehold reform, and will he give special priority to that Measure because of the serious anxiety that exists in this country on the problem which it seeks to remedy?
Yes, Sir. I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. He may be sure that I attach great importance to the point he has mentioned, and I anticipate that the Bill will be before the House quite soon.
In order to get the matter clear, will the right hon. Gentleman state whether it is not a fact that there is nothing whatever to prevent any Private Member from using his time on a Motion to discuss foreign affairs, in view of the fact that there has been a tendency in recent years to suppose that the usual channels are sacred. They are not.
The noble Lord is quite right. I am sure he will forgive me if I have a slight bias in favour of the usual channels because I depend on them in many ways. It would be perfectly competent for a Private Member who succeeds in the Ballot to choose, for example, foreign affairs.
In view of the attitude on the benches opposite to the peace congress, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether we can have his complete assurance that he does not intend to find time for the introduction of legislation to ban that type of conference or meeting?
I understand there was a suggestion from the other side of the House to that effect, but we are not the sort of Government which would do that sort of thing.
Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind some time within the next fortnight as being the limit which should be set for a discussion on foreign affairs?
I shall do my best in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to tie myself too firmly, but I appreciate his point.
I wanted to draw attention to the current which is flowing through the usual channels.
Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the procedure on the Festival of Britain Bill. Is he not really under a misapprehension? He said that if the Bill did not get a Second Reading none of the parts of the Festival would be open on Sunday. The fact is that if this Bill is not passed, the opening will remain a question of the ordinary law as it stands at the moment.
I am advised by high authority, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, that we should certainly not be safe, and that any common informer could come along and intervene. I think it is the duty of the House to face the issue.
On the business for Thursday, Sir, would you help us in advance by indicating to what extent on the Second Reading it will be proper for anybody to address observations to the question of opening the amusement section on Sunday afternoon, or to what extent will that point have to be retained until it is met on the Committee stage?
I imagine there will be quite a number of observations on that point, but of course it is perfectly com- petent for hon. Members to make observations about any part of the Bill on Second Reading.
Does the Lord Festival—[Laughter.] Does the Lord President's statement about the Festival of Britain Bill indicate that, in the opinion of the Government, if the Whips are not put on for the Second Reading, their Bill will be defeated?
I am not clear as to the procedure on Thursday. If we vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, obviously we are committed to all that is in it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]. Yes, if the House carries it. Therefore how can we justify to our constituents, who write to us every day saying that they want the amusement park closed but want the rest open, our opposition to it? Surely It would be better to leave out the amusement park from the Bill and bring it up as a separate issue?
What hon. Members say to their constituents is their business. I hope they will keep themselves clear to vote on the merits of the Bill in the light of the debate. On the first point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, after his long experience in the House I am really amazed that he thinks that if a Bill is carried on Second Reading, It cannot possibly be altered in Committee.
Will the Leader of the House say when he thinks he will be able to give some indication of the probable date of the Christmas Recess?
I will look into the matter. I could not say at the moment but, in my new capacity of Lord Festival, it is certainly right that I should consider it.