We shall come to that in a minute.
We propose to put a Motion on the Order Paper in conection with the debate on steel during the first half of the day on Wednesday. It will be noticed that the Lord Privy Seal has announced that the two debates on the Consolidated Fund Bill will terminate at 7 o'clock, or at least that the business allocated will terminate then. In the light of representations made by back benchers, we have come to the conclusion that, since Wednesday and Thursday are Opposition days, the second half of each day should be available to back benchers to raise constituency grievances and problems, as has often been the case, and we have arranged accordingly.
May I ask the Leader of the House whether he is in a position to state the date of the return of the House after the Summer Recess and whether, in accordance with the usual undertaking, the Government will be willing to consider recalling the House at an especially early date if the situation as regards public affairs at home and abroad warrants that? Would the Government, in the usual way, consider representations by the Opposition in that respect?
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for telling me about the Motions on Wednesday. That business, of course, will take place after the formal Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill has been obtained. As to the date on which We return, I hope that hon. Members will excuse my not letting them know until early next week. Standing Order No. 112 gives Mr. Speaker power to recall and the Government can be trusted to do their duty in that matter.
Does the announcement regarding the Consolidated Fund Bill mean the partial restoration of Private Members' pre-war rights? If so, may I at last express my thanks to whoever is responsible for that partial restoration? I suggest that the Leader of the House invites hon. Members to make suggestions to Mr. Speaker, so that we may have an orderly debate.
As there seems to be some time available next week, though it is at the disposal of the Opposition, would it be in order for me to raise the Motion on the Order Paper standing in my name, on the grievances of small income groups, a subject which had no attention at all in yesterday's debate?
It is not for me to say what is in order or not in order. I think that what the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) had in mind, with which I entirely agree, was that after the official Opposition had taken a certain amount of time on that day for a Motion which they wish to put on the Order Paper, we would then pass to the Motion for the Adjournment. What subjects would be discussed on that Motion would no doubt be a matter for agreement and consultation between the usual channels.
Am I to understand that the general statement on business which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has just made was the statement to which the Prime Minister referred a few minutes ago? If so, it does not help us very much. We had hoped that on a matter to which, as my right hon. Friend knows, we attach very great importance we would have a specific assurance—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who is ' we '? "] The House and the country. We should have a specific assurance that the House would be recalled if an agreement were arrived at.
It may be that they are a continuation of previous negotiations, but what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was laying down was what would be the conduct of the Government in certain circumstances and that applies equally here. For the day to which my right hon. Friend referred as Christmas, I would say that we could substitute the Bank Holiday.
The Leader of the House, referring to Motions next Wednesday, said that they would be taken after the formal Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. On what authority does the right hon. Gentleman assume that the Second Reading would be formal? Does he mean that the Bill would be taken and the Closure moved early? Is it not exempted business, on which it has been customary for a long time for Parliament to debate just those issues to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) was referring?
Perhaps the hon. Member has misunderstood the situation. The time available, of course, is entirely a matter for the Opposition. Instead of having a debate on general topics on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, which is quite a normal process, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) has indicated that the Opposition would prefer not to do that, but to let us have the Bill formally, and pass to a debate on the lines which the right hon. Gentleman suggested. If the Opposition wanted to do it the other way, naturally the Government would not disagree.
On a point of order. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I had not misunderstood the position at all, but I understood it only too well. What I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, is whether it is competent for the usual channels or anyone else to come to an agreement about a matter which must be within your jurisdiction and which affects the rights of every hon. Member of this House, back bench and Front Bench alike? The Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading, are the traditional occasions for raising every kind of subject that has not been covered otherwise, especially administrative subjects. The House could sit all night on those occasions to deal with outstanding matters. May I ask you, Sir, what is the authority or competence of anyone, outside the House as it were, to come to an agreement whereby the rights of every hon. Member are imperilled?
So far as I am concerned, I have just to administer the Standing Orders. What the hon. Member has said about the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill is quite right, but it is frequently the case that arrangements are made for the convenience of the House. I express no opinion on that, because it has nothing to do with me.
May I be permitted to say that someone has to arrange these things for the best convenience of the House and the Opposition Front Bench must discharge its collective responsibility according to the wishes of the House? That we have done. We think it is important that the activities of the Government in regard to steel should be debated, and debated at the proper time. I must ask my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) to realise that we have done the best we could for all parties in the House, including back benchers. May I point out to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House that on Thursday, on the Committee and the remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, disarmament will be the subject of debate until 7 o'clock, but there is no Motion and, therefore, it will be a free issue. We have our duty to do and are doing it in the best way we can for our country and party. I hope there will be no difficulty about this, because it would muddle the whole time-table for those two days.
What I am seeking to ensure is that these arrangements for the sake of tidiness and for the convenience of the parties concerned are not allowed to detract in the least from what are the proper Parliamentary accompaniments and traditions upon which we all rely. Whether those rights are exercised or not, what I am seeking to safeguard is whether the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill is taken formally early in the day or late at night is a matter for the House to decide, and not to be arranged through the usual channels or by anyone outside.
That has nothing to do with me. If arrangements are made in the usual proper way, I try to give effect to them so far as they are in order, but I have not understood that anything out of order has been suggested. If the hon. Member differs from what has been said, he must argue it out with someone else, not with me.
Has the Leader of the House considered a Motion on the Order Paper—signed by 88 hon. Members on both sides of the House, but unfortunately, not by any right hon. Members—calling attention to the growing tendency for Privy Councillors to monopolise the time of the House? Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any possibility of the Government finding time, before the House rises for the Summer Recess, to discuss whether Privy Councillors should enjoy automatic privileges in that respect?
I am sorry to have to press my right hon. Friend again, but is he aware that circumstances of today, when we are going into recess for no fewer than 10 weeks, are very materially different from those when the Foreign Secretary made his statement? If it is really possible that an agreement might be arrived at on the heads of agreement before the House has an opportunity of seeing it all then, in those circumstances, I earnestly urge my right hon. Friend to give us some further assurances.
Following on what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), if, during the coming week, I desire to participate in one of the debates on the many subjects which are to be raised, what have I to do to get in, Sir? Must I write to you, or send you a telegram? I find the greatest difficulty in getting in, while others can get in even though they do not sit in the House from time to time.
On a point of order. Can the House have a clarification on a point with reference to the Recess? On 17th December last year the Foreign Secretary made it quite clear that the Government were trying to negotiate heads of agreement with the Egyptian Government, and went on to say:
if we reach these heads of agreement, then the House will have every opportunity to debate them"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1953; Vol. 522, c. 689–90.]
Are we to understand that the House will still have an opportunity of debating those heads of agreement before any agreement is signed?