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May I ask the Leader of the House whether, if he is going to ask the House to meet on Fridays, he could provide more subjects to occupy our time? On two Fridays recently the Adjournment was reached quite early, and it wants no imagination to see that next Friday's Business will not provide a full day.
I will certainly consider that. My recollection is that we got through eight items of Business on one of the Fridays to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, and if the House behaves in that exemplary fashion, I can only be gratified.
May I ask whether the request made by me on two occasions, supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and other Members, for a Debate on the economic condition of Europe is likely to be granted in the comparatively near future, in view of the fact that there has been a Debate in another place, and that there is a growing public interest in the matter?
Will my right hon. Friend draw the attention of his colleagues to the undesirability of making statements on really important subjects, without the slightest notice, on Friday mornings? Last Friday an important statement was made; nobody in the House, so far as I know, had the slightest warning that it was to be made, and many Members who are very interested in the question had not the opportunity of being present.
I am sure my hon. Friend will bear in mind that Friday is a Parliamentary day, like any other day. However, I quite understand the circumstances; I think we must bear them in mind, but I do not think we should say that Friday should be treated differently from other days. I would like to consider what my hon. Friend has said.
Surely it is highly undesirable for important statements to be made on a day when there are no Questions. On other days, there are inspired Questions, or Private Notice Questions, which give some warning that a matter will be brought up. On a Friday, such a statement comes "out of the blue."
May I also point out that not only axe there no Questions on Friday, and therefore making use of this opportunity is, to some extent, an abuse of the clemency of Mr. Speaker, but furthermore, Friday does happen to come after Thursday, and there is thus no opportunity of asking that arrangements be made for a Debate during the succeeding week, after important announcements of that sort. The Government therefore hope that about ten days will elapse, allowing for public opinion to cool after they have launched these torpedoes.
This is an exceedingly serious matter. It has happened on several occasions, and it really is an attempt to trick the House. It means that two week-ends must elapse before we can have a Debate on housing.
The hon. Gentleman really must not make these imputations. It is not an attempt to trick the House. If there is a desire for a Debate after a statement on Friday, a statement can be made the following Tuesday. We never attempt tricks of that sort. Further, if I may say so, it has nothing to do with the clemency of the Chair; it has to do with Standing Orders, and Ministers are perfectly entitled to make these statements. At the same time, I do understand the point of view concerning the convenience of Members. There is something in that point, and I would like to consider it, if I may.
May I repeat a Question I put to the Leader of the House last week, regarding the Motion which certain Scottish Members have put down about Prestwick Aerodrome, and ask him whether he can give us any hope that there will be a Debate for Scottish Members, on that issue?
[That, in the opinion of this House, it is in the interests of civil aviation that Prestwick airport, which has throughout the war become Britain's main transoceanic airport, should continue as the principal international airport for the United Kingdom until a new airport has been completed in the London area, and should thereafter be maintained as second only in importance to the new Londonairport; and that immediate encouragement should be given to the conversion, production, assembly and operation of aircraft in Scotland.]
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that as a result of the statement made last Friday, and the statement made by him in answer to supplementary questions, great disappointment is felt by many Members this morning that there is to be no Debate next week on the Government's failure in housing?
The right hon. Gentleman asked last Friday for a Debate, and certainly it is our intention to have one soon. There are a number of Supply Days coming. I was proposing to arrange for a housing Debate then.
Will my right hon. Friend say how and when the Committee stage of the Water Bill is to be taken, and whether it will be affected by any prospective change in the hours of Sitting of the House?
Yes, Sir. It is our intention that the Bin should be taken by one of the Standing Committees which we are setting up as a result of the proposed change of hours of Sitting.
Is my right hon. Friend aware there is a Motion on the Paper calling attention to the need for a Housing policy to be initiated; and do the Government propose to give a day for a discussion on that subject?
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered whether Thursday's arrangements will give sufficient time to take not only the second Reading of the Family Allowances Bill, but also the Financial Resolution? Might not that be very hurried?
Can the right hon. Gentleman amplify the reply he gave to the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) about a Debate on the subject of economic conditions in Europe? Will such a Debate be announced next week for an early date, and will the Debate be in such a form as to allow consideration of a very wide range of subjects relating to economic conditions?
I said I hoped to make an announcement next Thursday. What I had in mind was that a Debate would take place the following week, and obviously it is desirable that it should be wide.
It would be for the convenience of the House if the right hon. Gentleman could say whether, in the event of the House deciding to alter its hours of Sitting, it is proposed to set up Standing Committees during that week. I understand the date of the alteration is to be 13th March. Is it proposed then that the Standing Committees shall hold their first meetings during that week, or will any time elapse?
Next Thursday the Leader of the House proposes to take the Family Allowances Bill. Before that, we are to discuss the Motion regarding the Sittings of the House. I cannot see the House disposing of that without taking some considerable time; there is bound to be a good deal of feeling in the House about it. To add, say, an hour to the length of the day's Sitting is not quite a fair way of proceeding. Will he not consider taking this Motion relating to the Sittings of the House on another day, so as to give us some more time in which to discuss this very important Bill?
I would like to consider that, but I must get the Motion one day next week, and Tuesday and Wednesday are already very full days as it is. [An HON. MEMBER: "Friday?"] I have doubts about that. I would like to consider the matter further, and if there is any change in that matter, I will announce it on Tuesday.
Will my right hon. Friend correct a misunderstanding? He led the House to believe that the first meeting of a Standing Committee was fixed by the Committee. It is the undoubted and established right of the Chairman who is appointed to a Standing Committee for the consideration of a particular Bill to name the day and hour on which consideration of the Bill will begin.
I beg my hon. and gallant Friend's pardon. What I meant to say was that it was not my responsibility. It is, of course, a matter for the Chairman of the Committee.
I do not think the House felt that I was trying to fob off Scottish Members. What I was trying to do was to provide an early opportunity, and it is of course a fairly early one.