HC Deb 13 December 1922 vol 159 cc2937-9

I think yesterday the Prime Minister rather indicated that, in the Debate to-morrow, he was to reply, and I should like to ask him whether he would not reconsider that decision—if I understood him aright to have come to that decision—in view of the importance, both to this country and to Europe, of the questions which must be decided before the House resumes, and whether, within whatever limitations he may feel to be imposed upon him, he could not indicate to us a little more than he has been able to do, either during the Election or since Parliament met, what lines the Government are to pursue in approaching the settlement of those questions; and the point is whether he could not see his way rather to open the Debate than to close it to-morrow.


As the hon. Member knows, I suppose there never has been a case where discussion on the Bill with which we are dealing to-day has been opened by a Minister. I would not, however, make a question of precedent interfere with me, if I thought it would be for the convenience of the House, and indeed I would try to meet the convenience of the Opposition in this case. However, I am sure that that would not be the case. If the conference, as it has been called, or the conversations, which have been taking place in London had been finished, the Government would have been under an obligation, a clear obligation, to come to the House, and explain exactly what had taken place. But they have not been finished, and I am really in the same position in regard to these conversations as I should be if they were to be resumed to-morrow in London. It is obvious, therefore, that if I attempted to make a speech at the opening, I would be compelled to confine it within such-narrow limits that I could not give the House as much information as I hope may be possible by the other arrangement. I think it quite likely that, in the course of the questions put to me in the Debate on particular points, I may be able to give much more in the way of the views of His Majesty's Government than would be the case if I adopted the other plan, and I can promise the hon. Member that I will give my reply, not at the end, but in plenty of time to enable it to be criticised afterwards. I will undertake to reply, in a word, before dinner.

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that M. Poincaré is making a statement at this moment in the French Chamber, and why are we treated to less information in this matter than the French Parliament? On Friday, I should have said.


Then we shall have it before them.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statements made in the French Chamber are, generally speaking, much fuller and more important than any given by the late Government or this Government, and is it not time that this was changed?

Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. ALLEN

I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, for the general information of the House, if it will be possible to raise the general question of the working of the Pensions Appeals Tribunals on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, Second Reading, to-day? Perhaps I should add it is with reference to E. 1: Provision for payment of salaries of members of an additional Tribunal for Assessment of Pensions, and for an additional Tribunal for Entitlement Cases.


I think not. I have kept a wide scope for the Debate to-day and to-morrow, so as to bring in the question of conditions in the mining area, and the question of reparations and Allied debts, as cognate to the unemployment question. I could not extend the discussion to cover the Debate which the hon. and gallant Member suggests.