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Business Of The House

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 13 May 1954

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

MONDAY, 17TH MAY—At the beginning of business my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will move a Motion for an humble Address to Her Majesty the Queen on her return from her Commonwealth Tour.

Report and Third Reading: Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Bill.

TUESDAY, 18TH MAY—Motion to approve: Report from the Business Committee on the Committee stage of the Television Bill, which is a formal proceeding.

Beginning of Committee stage: Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 19TH MAY—Committee stage>: Television Bill (1st allotted day).

Motion relating to: National Service (Adaptation of Enactments) (Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves) Order.

THURSDAY, 20TH MAY—Committee stage: Television Bill (2nd allotted day).

FRIDAY, 21ST MAY—Private Members' Bills.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there has been a conversation through the usual channels about a further debate on Members' payments in the near future?

I think we had better have today's debate before we start talking about other debates.

I thought it was understood that there was to be a debate today at which we shall have merely expressions of opinion, and that a further debate would take place after that, for which arrangements would be made in due course?

Arrangements can be made in due course, but I hope it is quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman that this is the day which the Government have given for that purpose.

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the third special Report of the Estimates Committee? If so, can he find an opportunity at an early date for the House to discuss the extremely important recommendations set out in the Report?

I have seen a Motion on the Order Paper, but I do not see any chance of finding any time for a debate.

[That Mr. Yates, Mr. Norman Cole, Mr. Horobin, Mr. W. T. Jones, Mr. J. T. Price, Mr. Tomney and Miss Ward have leave of absence to make inquiries on behalf of the House into certain expenditure in connection with the Office of the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Germany and the Embassies in Paris and Rome.]

I take it that the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman about Monday's business is a hope, rather than a decision, that it will be all accomplished in one day? The Secretary of State has a large number of Amendments to the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Bill, and it would seem unlikely that the Report stage and Third Reading will be finished in one day.

I cannot assess the likelihood or unlikelihood of that, but it is certainly not an unreasonable thing to hope will happen.

On the question put by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Water-house) about the Estimates Committee, the Leader of the House referred to a Motion, but I want to ask him why he cannot find time for the Report itself to be considered, which has implications in regard to how this House can have control over expenditure abroad?

The hon. Gentleman probably knows that Reports of the Select Committee on Estimates can be discussed on Supply days.

The question of my hon. Friend raises a point of principle. This is a Report of a Committee of the House and, as I understand, the issue involved is whether or not, respecting certain foreign embassies as to which there is agreement in the Foreign Office, they can take a Commitee Clerk with them, without whom they cannot prepare a proper Report. There is disagreement between some authorities and my hon. Friends. This is a sub-committee of the Estimates Committee over which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman presides, and surely it is right that the House of Commons should seek to resolve this point. It would not take very long.

The only point I was making was that, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Standing Orders, he will see that Supply days are available for Supply business, and also for discussion of any Report from the Select Committee which the House might wish to discuss. When the right hon. Gentleman says that there is some dispute between the authorities of this matter, I can assure him that there is no dispute whatsoever.

I know that a Supply day can be used for anything and that the Government are anxious that it should be used, but since this is a report to the House, and there is a difficulty involved which I think the Estimates Committee would like to see resolved, it is not unreasonable that the Government should supply, say, half a day for the discussion of this business?

Does not my right hon. Friend think it is quite unreasonable to ask the Opposition to give up a Supply day for a discussion of this most important matter, namely, what control the House of Commons has over its own expenditure abroad? It has nothing to do with either the Government or the Opposition; it is a House of Commons matter. Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am extremely surprised at the line he has taken?

I did not quite hear the final words of my hon. Friend. Did she express surprise? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes‡"] It is nothing like the surprise I express at her.

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government have finally jettisoned the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill? Will he perhaps tell us something about that next week at this time?

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the point about the Estimates Committee? Will he bear in mind that this is the second time that the Estimates Committee has drawn attention to the need of this House to discuss the matter, and that it is of considerable importance to the House?

These matters can, of course, be discussed if there is a real desire to discuss them. I was merely pointing out that it is within the power of the Committee of Supply to discuss it on a Supply day, but that does not affect the position that all authorities are quite satisfied that it would be unconstitutional to send abroad any such Committee as an official sub-committee—

That is the point which has been put to me. If the hon. Lady has another point, that is another matter, but all the authorities are agreed that to send abroad a sub-committee of any Committee of this House, formally as such, would be unconstitutional procedure.

But is not the hon. Lady correct in reminding the Lord Privy Seal that as Leader of the House he is concerned with the privileges and rights of this House as a whole? Quite apart from whether it is Government or Opposition or anything else, this is a very important matter which has been raised by a responsible Committee, as to what are the rights of this House in relation to expenditure. It is one of our oldest privileges. Surely it is right that time should be given for discussion.

I really have not anything more to say. I said that these matters could be discussed if the House really felt it wanted them debated. I merely said that it would be rather a fruitless debate when all authorities who can have any information on this matter take the view that such action is unconstitutional.

In relation to the Motion for which my right hon. Friend said it might be difficult to find time, would he make inquiries through the usual channels, because it might be found that it was not a controversial matter and could be taken in an extremely short time, which would give what the Estimates Committee wants and not take up the time of the House?