Will the Leader of the House state the forthcoming Business; and has his attention been called to a Motion on Old Age and Widows' Pensions which appears on the Order Paper in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Petnick-Lawrence) and myself; and also is it the intention of the Government to find time for the discussion of the Motion on the Order Paper relating to Family Allowances?
The forthcoming Business will be as follows:
First Sitting Day—Report stage of the Finance Bill, and it will no doubt be agreeable to the House to take the Third Reading immediately afterwards; the Committee and remaining stages of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Bill [Lords]; and, if there is time, we hope to make progress with the Coal (Concurrent Leases) Bill [Lords], and the Marriage (Scotland) Bill [Lords].
Second and Third Sitting Days—A Debate will take place on a Government Motion to approve the coal proposals.
With regard to the other two matters which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned, I am aware that a Motion appears on the Order Paper in the name of himself and the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), and the Government hope it will be possible to give time for that at a very early date after the next series of Sittings. Similarly, they hope there will be an opportunity to discuss Family Allowances also at a fairly early date.
Is it necessary to make the coal question, which is to come before the House shortly, a matter of confidence in the Government? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that there is quite a considerable division of opinion about this matter, and does he realise also that if I should vote against the Government on this matter, I might find myself in the same unfortunate position as he is, of being expelled from the Labour party?
It is not appropriate to comment on the misfortunes which may befall the hon. Gentleman, but the Government have decided that in this matter it is better to have a Motion definitely approving the Government's scheme.
Is there on this occasion any guarantee that the Government are really in earnest about the coal proposals, or are we to be faced with a situation similar to that which occurred before, that the Government say the thing must be done and then afterwards throw it over? Is there any guarantee that on this occasion if a certain body meets, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues will not run away at the first shout from that body?
With the right hon. and learned Gentleman's agility of mind and well-known capacity for change from day to day, is there any guarantee in this matter that he will not do the same again? Is there any guarantee that if another body meets—not the workers, for there is never any change because of the workers—and is dissatisfied, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not change his mind?
In view of the fact that the post-war organisation of the coal industry must have such an intimate bearing on war-time production, would it be possible for the Debate to range over a wide field?
Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the form of the Motion to be put before the House? There are two aspects of this matter, fuel rationing and the proposals for the reorganisation of the mining industry. Would it not be highly inconvenient to take the two things together, as they are not even remotely associated? Will there be a composite Motion or two Motions on the proposals?
That is precisely why I raised the matter. As the White Paper includes a scheme for fuel rationing, then, if it is necessary to vote against it, we shall have to vote against the two proposals. Can a reasoned Amendment be put down, if necessary? Cannot we have two Motions? Will the Government reconsider the matter, and allow the House to deal separately with two separate issues?
In the opinion of the Government all the proposals to deal with coal come under one single scheme. [Interruption.] That is so in the opinion of the Government; they consider it better to deal with the matter as a total scheme.
This is very important. Are not the Government laying a silly trap for the House, because if we vote against the Motion we shall appear to be voting against equitable rationing, when, in fact, we want to vote against the other part? Would it not be a much more honourable thing, and would it not be simpler and clearer, to have two Motions before the House for what are two separate issues?
The Lord Privy Seal will remember that there was the most tremendous urgency about getting this matter to the Committee of Privileges, so much so that the ordinary steps to inform those affected were not taken, whereas now it seems that there is unlimited time to deal with the matter from the point of view of the Government.