The Business will be as follows:
First Sitting Day—We shall ask the House to pass a special Consolidated Fund Bill through all its stages. Afterwards, a Debate will take place on a Motion relating to Family Allowances,
Second Sitting Day—Supply (9th Allotted Day), Committee. A Debate on Colonial Affairs will take place.
Third Sitting Day—We shall consider the Report from the Committee of Privileges on the complaint which was dealt with by the House a short time ago in Secret, Session. This arrangement must, however, depend upon the decision of the House on the Motions relating to Procedure which are to be moved later to-day by the Chairman of the Committee.
Is it contemplated that on the first Sitting Day there will be only a very short Debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, so that there will be ample time to debate the Motion on family allowances?
It is hoped that there will be no need for any Debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, so that the whole of the time will be available for debating the Motion on children's allowances.
Has the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend been directed to the somewhat interesting position disclosed in connection with the Motion on family allowances? Is he aware that originally there was a Motion on the Paper, in the names of about 200 Members, and that, as a result of submissions by the Government to the sponsors of that Motion, it was agreed, by some at all events, to accept another form of words, and yet that the original Motion is still on the Paper? For which Motion do the Government accept responsibility, and for which Motion will they provide facilities? While I appreciate, speaking for myself, that the Government must take up the time of hon. Members—that is to say, that Government Business must have precedence over private Members' Business—does my right hon. and learned Friend not appreciate also that private Members have rights, and that if they put a Motion on the Paper it ought not to be set aside by any decision of the Government, on a purely private issue?
The origin of the Debate on family allowances was, I understand, that it was represented to the Government some time ago that a substantial number of Members of all parties desired to debate the matter. The Government consulted, through the usual channels, the Members organising this matter, on behalf of those other Members who put their names to a Motion, this Session and last Session, in order to decide on a form of Motion which would admit of a wide Debate and which would prove generally agreeable to the House. The terms of that Motion are those which appear, for the first time, on the Order Paper, in page 1948, to-day. It is that Motion for which the Government intend to give facilities, subject to any Amendments which may appear on the Paper.
I am not certain whether this is a question which ought properly to be addressed to my right hon. and learned Friend or to you, Sir. Are we to understand that the original Motion cannot be discussed at all?
In connection with the reference which my right hon. and learned Friend made to the matter of the Committee of Privileges, might I ask whether, in the event of the recommendations of the Committee being accepted to-day, further consideration of the matter will be taken on the third Sitting Day?
That is the idea. If the recommendations were to be accepted, the document might be ready on the morning of the first Sitting Day. It is thought that it would be convenient to the House if a certain time for consideration were allowed before the Debate on the third Sitting Day.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be so kind as to convey this point to the Prime Minister—not only on my behalf, but on behalf of several other Members? The point is whether the Prime Minister would consider making a statement at the commencement of Business on the first Sitting Day in regard to the position in Libya and the recent battle in the Mediterranean. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bring to the Prime Minister's notice the inconvenience, as some of us think of the present arrangement—the precedent, in fact, which has grown up in recent months—by which the Prime Minister makes a statement at the commencement of a battle in Libya, or anywhere else, and then no other authoritative statement is made by the Government until long after the operations are over when a Debate takes place on certain events? Will he have regard to the fact that information is given freely to the Press by the Ministry of Information, with suggestions as to the line to be taken in leading articles; information is given out on the wireless; and this House ought to be placed in possession of authoritative information.
I apologise for returning to an earlier subject, but I was not able, Sir, to catch your eye at an earlier moment. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks of a Motion being put in a form which the Government hope will be agreeable to the whole House, is that an indication that this Motion is recommended to the House by the Government and becomes a Government Motion?
On a point of Order. I listened to the point raised by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) and the reply of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Does the Government spokesman now decide, Sir, which of a series of private Members' Motions on the Paper is to be called by you?
The powers that I have refer only to Amendments. As regards Motions on the Paper, it is entirely for the Government to decide which one they give facilities for.
Are we to understand from that that a Motion submitted by private Members can be set aside in favour of another Motion submitted by private Members because the Government prefer the Motion which suits themselves?
As I understand the position, the Motion remains a private Member's. Motion, and it is not in any sense adopted by His Majesty's Government. All His Majesty's Government have tried to do, as I pointed out before, is to get a form of Motion which will give the widest possible Debate on the subject, and which will prove generally agreeable to the House.
On the Business for the third Sitting Day, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether until the Report is presented it is certain that the House desires to discuss that matter at all; and, if not, who should he impose a Debate upon the House?
I have told the House that the arrangements must depend upon the decision of the House to-day on the Motions relating to procedure, which will be moved later by the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges The Government had to make arrangements for a Debate, in case the House desired such a course to be taken.
There may not be a desire for a Debate. When the opportunity is given the House may not desire to take it, but the Government must give the opportunity for a Debate in case there is a desire for one.
Colonel Arthur Evans:
As regards the Business for the second Sitting Day, may I ask whether the House will be afforded facilities to discuss the Motion on a Colonial Development Council standing in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) and other hon. Members?
In Committee of Supply the appropriate Votes will be put down, including the Votes for the Colonial Office and Colonial and Middle Eastern Services, so as to allow as full a Debate as possible, to cover the whole field. We cannot, of course, take a particular Motion, because it is a Supply Day.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that if it is found that the Debate is likely to occupy a great deal of time, the Rule will be suspended for it?
In regard to the question of family allowances, as it is important that the House should know just what Motion is to be discussed and what the conditions will be, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether we are to understand that the Motion which is to be considered is that which has now been substituted by the hon. and gallant Member for Erdington (Wing Commander Wright) and myself and others for the previous Motion; and shall we by debating that Motion be able to explain that we accepted this form, in view of the Government's desire for a Motion which might be more acceptable to the Government? Shall we be able to explain the position without an Amendment being moved to the Motion which has now been put down?
The hon. Lady is quite accurate as regards which Motion is to be discussed. As regards what she will be permitted to say in the course of the Debate, that is not a matter for me.
Arising out of the hon. Lady's statement that negotiations took place—as mentioned earlier by the right hon. Gentleman—between the sponsors of the original Motion and the Government. I understand that those sponsors have put their names to the subsequent Motion which now appears on the Order Paper. In view of the fact that they withdrew their original Motion, on the assumption that the subsequent Motion would be more favoured by the Government, are we now to understand that the Government do not particularly favour the Motion at all and that the promoters of the original Motion have, therefore, really been deceived and have allowed themselves to be seduced by the Government into withdrawing their original Motion?
The hon. Member would be quite wrong if he were to put that interpretation upon it, but the Government's attitude towards the Motion will appear more clearly in the course of the Debate.