Adjournment (Christmas)

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th December 1967.

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Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr 12:00 am, 19th December 1967

I hope that the Leader of the House will take the criticisms and suggestions made in the debate very seriously. I know that, before every Recess we have this debate. It is probably to some extent a traditional part of Parliamentary life when hon. Members suggest that the coming Recess should be shorter than planned by the Government. But I hope that, on this accasion, the right hon. Gentleman will agree that hon. Members are right in saying that this Recess is exceptionally inappropriate in length and that we should not be going away for as long as a month.

Indeed, it would be hard to think of a more inappropriate time for the House to go quietly off for a full month. I do not suggest that hon. Members do nothing during a Recess. There are many important things to be done. But surely the time of a national crisis, of all times, is a time when the House should be sitting and seen to be sitting to consider the problems facing the country.

It is just a month since the momentous and disastrous step of forced devaluation was taken by the Government and that means that it is probably six weeks since the decision was taken within the Government. By the time we come back on 17th January, two and a half months will have elapsed. It is in these two crucial weeks in January which are to take place before we come back during which we should, in all conscience, be here to discuss what should be done to put right the country's affairs.

This might be a most helpful thing for the Government. A great debate is going on, and will go on, about what is to be cut in Government expenditure to save the economic situation. Such debates are not uncommon within Governments and are usually accompanied by bitter bargaining between the Ministries. Would it not be immensely helpful to the Government to have the views of the House in some detail as to what the majority of hon. Members feel should bear the brunt and what the majority do not favour for bearing the brunt? Would it not give an indication to the Government in their difficult decisions if they knew the feelings of hon. Members? If the right hon. Gentleman ponders on that, he may feel that this point of view may appeal to the Government as well as to the back benchers.

There is the desirability to be flexible about the dates of a Recess. We get approximately one month at Christmas purely, because it is the custom, but, I was horrified by the Government s proposal that, at this time of all times, we should go away on a rather longer Recess than usual. I wondered whether the Government had even begun to realise what an incredible mess the country is in. Surely this is a time when we should throw aside the convention that we have a whole month for the Christmas Recess.

By all means let us balance it, if the Government so wish, by having a longer Recess at Easter, but surely this critical period, two months after devaluation with all these decisions piling up and the country wondering what is to go next, is a time when the House of Commons ought not quietly to sit back taking its ease.

I should like to add a brief plea in addition to what my hon. Friends have already said so eloquently about the need to debate numerous aspects of the problems which face Scotland as a result of devaluation and the general slackness in the economy. What about prices? During the last three weeks more than 400 individual price increases in the shops in Scotland have been announced. Is not that a matter which the House should discuss? Should not time be given for us to give details and to get the Government's view about what should be done?