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 Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire 12:00 am, 21st July 1952

I apologise for interrupting the debate but by no means ending it, and I promise to be relatively short. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us as one of his reasons for introducing this Motion that the Government inherited a crisis. It was described as an economic crisis which would shake the country and which was affecting not only ourselves but the whole world.

Parliament was adjourned for quite a time in order that the Government might deal with that crisis. Hon. Members reassembled after the new year to find out what were the tremendous steps which were to be taken to solve the crisis. The first Bill with which they were presented was this Bill to hand the public houses in the new towns back to the brewers. Nothing could have been more ridiculous from the point of view of the urgency of the crisis. As far as we know, there has been no demand for this Bill. Indeed, that was stated on Second Reading.

I regret that this Motion has been introduced today, for the time had been set aside for a debate on Scottish transport. There was no secret about it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent the Conservative Party in Scotland met last week and actually proclaimed to the public through the Press that they were considering a debate on Scottish transport. Indeed, a right hon. Friend of the Home Secretary discussed the method of conducting that debate with me some time ago.

The importance of holding that debate today lay in the fact that there is a second debate taking place on transport tomorrow and dealing with the Report of the British Transport Commission. Obviously if we are to deal tomorrow with the entire question of British transport, it would be rather more difficult immediately after to have a more detailed examination of a part of it, such as the Scottish transport system. The priority which Scottish transport had received in the order of debate has been dislocated by the Government rushing in today to move this Guillotine Motion.

The complaint that we have against the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that he gave us no intimation at any of the Committee meetings that there was any probability of this Motion being moved this week. Worst of all, there was no consultation, usual with a courteous Minister such as himself, with the ex-Ministers on the same Committee. Not one word passed his lips in discussing the matter either with my right hon. Friend or myself. Otherwise he would have discovered quite easily that there were better ways of doing what he wanted to do than by this dictatorial method of plunging the House into these decisions without any warning or discussion.

To put it mildly, that must be described as discourteous, and it is completely foreign to the normal behaviour of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We have put it down to the fact that he is governed by the pressure behind him to get the Bill through at all costs, whatever else must be swept aside in the process. As I said in the Committee, I was shocked to find that Scotland was to be kicked aside in order to make room for the brewers' Bill, which is the only description which can be applied to it. It was an insult to have our day taken away from us, but to have it taken away for this purpose was adding insult to injury.