Licensed Premises in New Towns Bill (Allocation of Time)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st July 1952.

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Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale 12:00 am, 21st July 1952

The point I am trying to make is that we are here discussing a Bill vitally affecting licensed victuallers' interests and that we also have a very queer Parliamentary set-up which we would like to have investigated. Indeed, unless hon. Members opposite get the whole business cleaned up they will be under suspicion as being Parliamentary tools of the brewers' interests. Furthermore, we are fortified in that suspicion because we believe that the brewers are heavy subscribers to the Conservative Party funds, and until evidence is produced to the contrary we shall go on believing that. Therefore, until the Conservative Party have the courage to publish their accounts they will be under that suspicion.

The assumption that we reach is that the Government intended, first of all, either to have plenty of Parliamentary time in which to get this Bill through and therefore did not bother about sending it upstairs to Standing Committee, or they said, "Let us send it up at the end and use the Guillotine to push it through." The explanation given this afternoon by the right hon. and learned Gentleman why they had not proceeded with this Bill before in Committee was the preoccupation of the Government with the economic and financial difficulties bequeathed by us.

Let us have a look at that; let us examine it for a moment. The only single explanation given why the Committee were not asked to consider this Bill four months ago and why we are now having the Guillotine is that the services of the Members of Standing Committee C were absolutely invaluable to the Government in dealing with the economic and financial difficulties which had been bequeathed by us. This is the picture which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now attempting to convey to the country as a whole, that all Members of Parliament, not only Members of Standing Committee C—because it could not have been known at that time how valuable their services would be in dealing with the matter—have been giving such assiduous attention to dealing with the financial and economic crisis bequeathed by us that they could not send this Bill upstairs to Committee before this.

That is the explanation; and it is the only one we have had. Four months elapse and then it is decided to have a Guillotine and rush the Bill through the Committee. Now, a week after the Prime Minister's announcement that the economic and financial situation was so grave we are going to have a Guillotine. That is the only explanation we have, and so we now have once more displayed to us the full sense of priorities of the Government.

As the Prime Minister has said, we are standing on a trap-door. [An HON. MEMBER: The cellar door."] We have been standing on it now for several weeks. Next week, at the end of the Session, before the Recess, when there will not be much time for consideration of what is to be done when Parliament will be away, we are to have a further announce-from the Government about the other measures that they propose. Such is their assessment of the priorities in their decision on how Parliamentary time is to be used that they postponed consideration of measures to deal with the economic situation of the country and asked Parliament solemly to discuss for all hours of the day and night in the House, in Committee upstairs and on Report and Third Reading who shall have the chance of making profits from selling beer in the new towns.

That is what the Tories are telling the country. That is their sense of urgency. It is possible for the Ministry of Labour to stop workers having increases in wages; but do not stop the brewers having their profits. What the Conservative Party are doing, of course, is giving the price that their paymaster demands; and they are doing it cynically, frivolously, without any regard at all to the moral values involved. We have gone on now for month after month and we have been waiting for proposals from the Government to deal with the financial and economic situation. We have not had them and are not to have them until next week.

I say to hon. Members opposite that this is really not the way in which Parliament ought to be treated or this country ought to be treated. They ought not to ask the people to make sacrifices in these days and to appreciate the gravity of the national crisis, both financial and economic, and, at the same time, waste the time of Parliament frivolously with repaying the brewers for the funds that they give to the Conservative Party.