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Business Of The House

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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

MONDAY, 5TH JULY—Supply [19th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Civil Defence.

Motions to approve: Draft Civil Defence (Casualty Collection) Regulations.

Draft National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Mariners) Amendment Regulations.

TUESDAY, 6TH JULY—Supply [20th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on the Sale of Road Haulage Assets until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, debate on the Overseas Information Service.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH JULY—Report stage: Finance Bill.

THURSDAY, 8TH JULY—It is hoped to conclude the Report stage of the Finance Bill about dinner time; and then consider the Lords Amendments to the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill.

FRIDAY, 9TH JULY—Motion for an humble Address relating to the Gift of a Mace to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in Committee.

Second Reading: Gas and Electricity (Borrowing Powers) Bill.

Committee stage: Money Resolution.

If there is time, Second Reading: Pests Bill [ Lords].

Committee stage: Money Resolution.

During the week we hope that the House will give its attention to the Motion relating to the Non-Indigenous Rabbits (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order.

May I make three points? First, on Tuesday we shall ask that Supply be taken formally, for the purpose of discussing Motions on the two subjects of which the right hon. Gentleman has given notice—the sale of road haulage assets and the Overseas Information Service. The right hon. Gentleman said that it is hoped to conclude the Report stage of the Finance Bill on Thursday. That is an expression of hope and not a concluded agreement. Thirdly, can the right hon. Gentleman tell me anything about the forthcoming debate on Crichel Down? The Minister of Agriculture said this afternoon that he proposed to make a statement when the debate is held. We have not had any notice of it.

We have not fixed any time, but I think that last week we said that we hoped to settle a time as soon as possible. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is not a very suitable matter to discuss in the absence of the Prime Minister, and it will not be until after his return.

I wondered whether it would be on the Floor of the House or in the 1922 Committee.

Is the Leader of the House still prepared to maintain that we are going to have the Food and Drugs Bill this Session?

Following the previous question, could the Leader of the House tell me whether his attention has been drawn to the article in the "Municipal Journal" of 25th June with reference to the Food and Drugs Bill, and whether this section of the article is correct:

"The hotel and catering organisations have clearly won their battle with the Minister of Food over the clean food regulations to be made under the Food and Drugs (Amendment) Bill."
It goes on to say that only 22 of the 67 recommendations now remain, and that a Ministry spokesman said:
"We are naturally anxious that the proposals should not receive publicity."

On a point of order. Is this partisan speech in order on the question of Business?

We are on the question of Business now. I hope that the hon. Lady will conclude what she has to say with a question about the Bill to which she has referred.

Yes, Sir. I was asking under what circumstances and when we are to have an opportunity of making comments upon this Bill, because the Session is coming to a close. In view of the fact that the Bill is not to be dealt with next week, can we be told what the situation is?

The answer to the last part of the hon. Lady's question is, "No." The answer to the first part is that I am afraid I do not read the "Municipal Journal" with quite the same attention as the hon. Lady.

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food indicated that it was still the hope of the Government to introduce a Bill on food and drugs? In view of that statement, is it not the right hon. Gentleman's duty to acquaint the House with the intentions of the Government about the bringing forward of the Bill?

I really do not understand what the hon. Member means. It is not the hope of the Government to introduce a Bill; a Bill has been introduced. It has been through the other place and it has received its First Reading here. The question is when it is going to have its Second Reading, and I said, in answer to that question, "All in good time."

The right hon. Gentleman may not read the journal to which my hon. Friend referred, but does he read the Order Paper of the House? If he does, he will see that it discloses the fact that there are many Bills which are still undealt with. Does he realise that he has no chance of getting the Food and Drugs Bill through unless he brings it forward straight away? Can he also tell us when we shall have a debate on capital punishment and hear the decision of the Government? Can he say whether it will be next week? Will he explain what is holding up an important constitutional Measure—the Ministers of the Crown (Fisheries) Bill? This important Bill was referred to a Standing Committee as recently as Friday last. It received a unanimous Second Reading, but all the information we can get at the moment is that it has disappeared somewhere between the Floor of the House and upstairs. There is a suspicion of infanticide here. Can we be given some information?

If the Bill has been sent to a Standing Committee it has passed outside my knowledge, so I cannot answer the hon. Member in regard to that. As regards a debate on capital punishment, I am afraid that no Government time is available at present.

On a point of order. The Ministers of the Crown (Fisheries) Bill was passed last Friday, Mr. Speaker, but the usual notice saying that you have allocated it to a certain Standing Committee has not appeared on the Order Paper. With great respect, as it was committed to a Standing Committee by the House, if the hon. Member in charge of the Bill does not want to proceed further with it, the proper course is for him to move a Motion in Committee. It is an unfortunate situation when a Bill which has received the unanimous approval of the House does not seem to have been allocated to a Standing Committee.

I understand that the Bill has been withdrawn by the hon. Member in charge of it.

With great respect, the hon. Member is surely not in a position to withdraw it. It was committed to a Standing Committee.

So far as I know, the hon. Member who is in charge of the Bill can do what he likes with it.

Whilst the Leader of the House is making up his mind when we may expect the next stage of the Food and Drugs Bill, will he say whether he is prepared to place before the House, or at least put in the Library of the House, a list of trade associations and commercial interests which have made representations to the Government on this matter?

That is not a question on Business. If there are any more questions on Business, let us have them.

With regard to Crichel Down, in view of the repeated statements of the Minister of Agriculture, when he was questioned on the subject, that it would be better dealt with in debate—thereby indicating his clear assumption that there would be a debate—and I take it from the Lord Privy Seal that there is no question whatever about the Government providing time for a debate?

These are matters which are still for consideration. It is quite clear that there should be a debate.

Is there any question about the Government providing time? The Minister of Agriculture, seeking to evade or shorten Parliamentary Questions—for reasons which we quite understand—said that this matter would be debated. I am not asking when it will be debated, but I am saying that when a Minister offers facilities for a debate and assumes it will take place the Government should provide time for it.

I really do not think the right hon. Gentleman need press me at the moment. I have made the position quite clear. As he knows, these are matters which are often dealt with through the usual channels, in order to find what is the most convenient method of handling the matter from the point of view of the House as a whole.

The right hon. Gentleman is not quite seized of the point. When a Minister is asked a Question by a Member of the House and says that he is not prepared to answer it because he is going to make a speech in a debate on the matter, it clearly must mean that he has been to the Leader of the House and has ascertained that the Government will provide time for him to make that speech. He would not have gone to the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman must have been quite clear on the point, otherwise he had no right to make such a reply.

Can we have a definite assurance that whatever decision is arrived at by the Government will be implemented by them, and that they will not run away from it at the request and pressure of the 1922 Committee?

I did not understand your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on the point of order which was raised regarding a Bill which was passed by this House and in respect of which it refused permission to the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) to withdraw it. Is it still your Ruling that when permission to withdraw a Bill has been refused, it is still within the rights of the Member concerned to jettison it?

I remember the occasion perfectly well. The hon. Member in charge of the Bill moved, "That the Bill be now read a Second time." but after a short debate he asked leave to withdraw the Motion. That was refused by the House, and the Bill was then read a Second time. But the conduct of the Bill after that is in the hands of the hon. Member who brought it in. I was not aware of the circumstances which have been brought to my attention by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) and I should like to look into them a little more, but my impression of how the matter stands at the moment is as I have described it. If there is anything else I can do to clear up the matter, I shall gladly do it.

In connection with the withdrawal of Bills, we are given to understand that a private Member can introduce a Bill in this House and then deliberately jettison it contrary to the wishes of the House. The point I wish to put is that, although the time of the House is limited, and the time of Members is not unlimited, a number of Bills have been introduced by the Government this Session and nothing more has been heard of them subsequently. There was the Food and Drugs Bill, the Dentists Bill, and the Teachers' Superannuation Bill. Is there no protection for hon. Members—who have not an unlimited amount of time—against the introduction by the Government of Bills which are not subsequently pursued?

My experience of the House is that Bills are frequently introduced in the hope that there will be time for their discussion and completion, but that that hope is sometimes falsified by events.

Mr. Speaker, I should like respectfully to draw your attention to the Votes and Proceedings of the House for 25th June, which state:

"14. Ministers of the Crown (Fisheries) Bill,—read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee."
In those circumstances, how can the hon. Member who introduced the Bill be justified in declaring that he withdraws it, in defiance of the wishes of this House as recorded in the Votes and Proceedings?

I have said all I can on that. The Member in charge of the Bill is in control of the Bill.

If a Member in these circumstances has still the right to withdraw a Bill at any time, could you tell the House, Mr. Speaker, when you make your statement, how the Member should withdraw it? In this case, apparently, you yourself were not informed that the Bill was about to be withdrawn, and the Leader of the House showed, in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), that he apparently knew nothing of the withdrawal of the Bill, and other Members have no means of discovering what the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) is doing about his Bill. Should not an explanation also be given to the House of how the House should be informed if a Member runs away from his own Measure?

I understand that the Bill was withdrawn by the hon. Member in the Public Bill Office. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] The fact was published in the Votes. However, all this is new to me and I have no more knowledge of it, and it is useless to carry the matter further at this stage.

On the list of sponsors of the Bill there were 12 names, but during the whole of the debate on Friday not more than five of them attended or took any part in the debate. Ought not the Chief Whip to exercise a little discipline over the Members of his party to see they do come and do their work?

That has nothing to do with the matter. I am assisted by the learned Clerk, who has handed me the Votes and proceedings for 29th June. Item 15 states:

"Ministers of the Crown (Fisheries) Bill,—Order [25th June], That the Bill be committed to a Standing Committee, read, and discharged: Bill withdrawn."
That was done in the ordinary way, I think, in the Public Bill Office, but I will look into it.

Order. I myself have a point of order. I ask the House not to pursue this matter further. There is nothing I can do to enlighten hon. Members on it. Since it has been raised. I shall have to look into the circumstances. I have given my impression, from my knowledge of the procedure of the House, of what happened. That is all I can say. I ask hon. Members not to waste more time by discussing the matter further now, because I cannot help them further. I have said all I know about it.

There is an aspect of the matter which I venture to think you, Mr. Speaker, could deal with now. If the House approves of a Bill, and the Bill is then committed to a Standing Committee, surely the House or the Committee is seized of it, and—

Order. I really cannot hear the hon. and learned Member on this matter. I have said all I can on it.

Mr. Speaker, we were discussing the business for next week. May I respectfully ask your guidance on what basis it is decided that legitimate questions on the business for next week are stopped, because there is an important matter that has arisen latterly about which I should have liked to ask a question? It is about the evasion of the Government of their responsibilities as a member of the United Nations regarding the Guatemalan situation and the possibility of an early debate.

I cannot express an opinion on that. There have been a great number of questions today on business. I try to select those hon. Members who, I think, have questions to ask on business that the House should hear. Sometimes I am not very successful in my choice.