– in the House of Commons on 20th April 1944.
May I ask the Prime Minister if he will state the Business of the House for next week?
The Business for next week will be as follows:
Tuesday, 25th April.—The Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget. As the House is aware, my right hon. Friend has special considerations to bear in mind on Budget Day. We shall meet at the usual time, and at the end of Questions I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you will be good enough to suspend the Sitting until a later hour, at which hour the Chancellor of the Exchequer will begin his speech.
Wednesday and Thursday, 26th and 27th April.—There will be a general Debate on the Budget Resolutions.
Friday, 28th April.—A Debate will take place on a Government Motion relating to water policy.
During the week we hope to obtain the Motions to approve the Purchase Tax (Exemptions) Orders relating to wooden-soled footwear and picture frames.
In view of the matter which was raised yesterday regarding the Defence Regulation IAA, could not the Prime Minister arrange, rather than have what I should regard myself as an unfortunate Debate later to-day, for some time to be definitely allocated next week to discuss the problem?
The House knows that we are rather short of time, but I feel that this is a subject which ought to be debated. I cannot think that a matter of this consequence should pass through the House without a free Debate, and without the House expressing its views upon it. I agree with my right hon. Friend that a Debate running to a late hour might, for various reasons, be inconvenient although, if that were necessary, it would certainly be held. I do not think it is so necessary that it should be held. I should be prepared if the House is in general agreement, and it is thought convenient, to put off the Debate on water policy next week, and give Friday, 28th April, to this subject. I may point out to hon. Members interested in this matter that this gives a very much better opportunity from the point of view of the public Press reporting speeches, than to have a Debate to-day dragging on to a late hour.
I would like to thank my right hon. Friend for meeting what are, I am sure, the wishes of large numbers of Members of the House. I know the difficulties about next week. In the circumstances I would have preferred the Debate earlier next week but I think that most of my hon. Friends will agree that the Prime Minister has met us fairly if we get a Debate on Friday of next week.
My right hon. Friend might have waited, before making that statement, to have heard the views of those of us who are responsible for the Prayer which has been put down dealing with this Defence Regulation, because the matter is not in his hands. It is in the hands, at the moment, of those who have felt it necessary to put the Prayer on the Order Paper. I put the Prayer down for to-day, but it is obviously very much more convenient for the House to discuss a matter of this importance on a separate day, and, therefore, if a proper day is forthcoming for it, I should be extremely frivolous in moving it to-day. But may I make this representation, through you, Sir, to the Prime Minister: that there are some disadvantages in taking it on a Friday, and that Thursday would be a very much more appropriate day? The Prayer is exempted Business, and, therefore, the House will not be bound to rise at the ordinary time next Friday. The Debate may continue, and you, Mr. Speaker, may be faced with the unpleasant duty of deciding whether or not to accept a Closure Motion. I submit that you, Mr. Speaker, ought not to be faced with a Motion for the Closure in a Debate on a matter which is normally exempted Business, and on which many Members may want to speak. Yet the House may want to have a Division on the matter at a convenient hour. It is much less convenient for the Debate to continue after the time for the interruption of Business on Friday than for it to continue after the time for interruption of Business on Thursday. I am not quarrelling with the Government; I am merely putting these alternatives to the House. May I, therefore, suggest that to have the Debate next Thursday would not interfere with the Government's arrangements; and that it would be much more convenient to the House?
It would, in my experience, be quite unprecedented to interrupt the Debate on the Budget Resolutions, and, therefore, I am not able to meet the suggestion of the hon. Member.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that legislation by delegation in this way, coming into operation during a Parliamentary Recess, and increasing a punishment to five years' penal servitude, is also unprecedented?
I realise the Prime Minister's difficulties, but the Prime Minister must also realise that it is the conduct of the Government which has created these difficulties. Therefore, he must not ask for our sympathy. It is usual to have three days on the Budget Resolutions, and even the Prime Minister's own proposal therefore interferes with, precedent. My suggestion constitutes no more of a violation of precedent than does the Prime Minister's own suggestion.
My right hon. Friend made a statement in the House two days ago to the effect that one day next week an announcement would be made on the question of Service pay and allowances. I wonder whether the Prime Minister could indicate on which day it will be made, and, as the statement will be of such a nature that it will be impossible to debate it at the time, will he undertake to give an early opportunity for a discussion on the proposals?
It is hoped that the statement of the proposals will be made on Wednesday, but a little time might intervene before it is debated in the House. People want to study these proposals, on which a great deal of time and thought has been spent, and which involve rather heavy expenditure. It will be desired to discuss them with full notice, and after Members have had an opportunity to digest them, in all their bearings.
While appreciating the pressure on Parliamentary time, might I ask whether it will be possible to find an opportunity in the near future to debate a Motion, in my name and the names of other hon. Members, on Regulation 18B?
I will consider this question, together with others relating to Government Business. I must not be understood to make any promise about it.
In view of the dissatisfaction with the proposal to take the Prayer on Friday, will the Prime Minister consider giving a day in the following week for the Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and myself?
["That this House is of opinion that the Government, instead of consultingoutside bodies, should have consulted the House of Commons before issuing the new Emergency Powers (Defence) General Regulations and is further of opinion that sufficient power already existed in the hands of the Government for dealing with any undesirable or dangerous agitation."]
I do not think that we should have two Debates on this question. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman should be fortunate enough to intervene, he will find an opportunity, between now and Friday, for getting his ideas in order.
In regard to what my right hon. Friend said about the Debate on Service pay and allowances, will he consider issuing a White Paper, to come out on the day that his statement is made, since that would probably be for the convenience of the House?
Yes, Sir; there will be one. As to whether there will be a free vote, all votes in this House are free in one sense: people are free to vote according to their consciences. That is exactly what they will do on this occasion. It is quite true that they are, sometimes, given some assistance in discerning which is the right Lobby.
When do the Government conceive that it will be possible to take the concluding stages of the Pensions (Increase) Bill; and have they been able to determine approximately when they will be able to give a day for the Debate on equal pay?
May I ask for your protection, Sir, because the statement of the Prime Minister about the arrangements for the Debate on the Prayer puts me and my hon. Friends whose names are on the Prayer in a difficult position? If we surrender our right to take the Prayer this evening, we shall have forfeited our opportunities until next week. May I ask you, Sir, for some guidance? It is very unusual indeed to take exempted Business on a Friday, but war-time arrangements have made it possible to do so. Exempted Business may on Fridays now go beyond the ordinary time. You would not have been put in this position before the war. May I ask what would be your attitude should a Closure Motion be moved at the time for interruption of Business on Friday? I would point out that the curtailment of the Debate may be a very serious matter. The Prime Minister has made one colossal blunder about the Rules before, and perhaps he will consider what he will do on this occasion. What would your attitude be, Sir?
I am afraid it is not usual to ask the Speaker, in advance, what his attitude will be. I may say, quite frankly, that if I thought there was an honest, and not an obstructive, Debate going on, I should be very slow to accept the Closure; but if I thought they were delaying speeches being made,. I should not hesitate to do so.
It is perfectly clear that Friday has many disadvantages, and I think one understands the right hon. Gentleman's reasons for not having it on Thursday. I would like to make a suggestion to the Prime Minister that might possibly meet the difficulty without interrupting the Budget Debate. The custom of the House is that, on Budget Day, there is only a short and quite formal Debate, and that the real substantive Debate on the Budget proposals does not begin until Wednesday. Would it not, then, be possible to take this Prayer on Tuesday afternoon? As the actual Debate on the Budget does not begin until Wednesday, we could have the Debate on the Prayer before the main Budget Debate commenced.
I do not think that would be a good plan. The Chancellor's speech does not begin until after the resumption of the Sitting, and Chancellors have sometimes made very long speeches. Then there are the speeches usually made by the leading personages in the House—some complimentary and some the reverse—and many hon. Members have found it profitable to get in a speech on that day, before others have been prepared. Therefore, I do not think it would be at all a good plan.
Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a general desire among many hon. Members for a Debate on Foreign Affairs; and will he give facilities for such a Debate in the immediate future?
I am not quite sure about this. I, personally, think it would be very desirable to have a Debate on Foreign Affairs. On the other hand, we must consider to some extent the fact of the meeting of the Prime Ministers from all over the Empire and Commonwealth, and it might be found better to leave a Debate on Foreign Affairs until after we have formed contact.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will bear in mind that he did give a definite promise of a Debate on Foreign Affairs? May I ask, therefore, that he will not lose sight of that fact?
No, I will give it further consideration. I did not wish in any way to close the subject.
Regarding this Prayer to be discussed next week, will the Order be put in operation, or will it be suspended until after the Debate takes place?