§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. LANSBURY
As I am not able to keep myself in order by making the suggestion about the Cunard Company, I content myself with an expression of the hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have made their protest to-day will 2268 carry the protest into the Division Lobby, and support us in our proposal for au alteration of the date of re-assembling. I would say that it does not carry any support of our Vote of Censure which we carried to the Division Lobby last night. As a matter of fact, this afternoon we are really helping them to make their protest effective, because the Government will stand any number of speeches. I know that from the couple of years' experience I had. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sit and do nothing."] Quite so. I am sure that when the hon. Member for Bridgeton forms his Cabinet, he will be exactly like every other Prime Minister: the thing that will affect him will be votes, not speeches. I want to say to those Members who support the Government in ordinary times, that to-day they have proved themselves the greatest critics of their own Government. I sometimes feel that we on these benches and hon. Members below the Gangway might quite easily sit still, while right hon. and hon. Members who got elected to support the National Government prove what a futile Government it is. The public, of course, will listen to them much more than to us, because we are said to be prejudiced partisans, and they are supporters of the Government and ought to know better than we do what sort of Government they have installed in power. I hope that they will go into the Lobby and register their opinion by their votes this afternoon.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Captain Margesson)
In the absence of the Prime Minister, who is engaged at a Cabinet meeting, perhaps it would be convenient if I intervened at this stage to say that I shall convey to the Prime Minister the course which this Debate has taken, and tell him of the anxieties expressed by right hon. and hon. Members with regard to the adjournment Motion to-day. At the same time, I think the House will agree that the Government are now entitled to a period for consultation. The Prime Minister has said from this Box that he is going to make an announcement of policy as soon as possible after the House re-assembles in February, and, actually, in the terms of the Motion which is now before the House, it will be seen that powers are taken to recall the House whenever the Government think, after 2269 consultation with Mr. Speaker, that it is necessary to do so. In answer to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who asked what specific questions were included in that provision, may I say that nothing is excluded and all is included. If the Government think, after consultation with Mr. Speaker, that it is in the public interest to summon the House, that action will be taken. I hope that this Debate may now be brought to a close, in order that the House may get on to the very important subjects which are due for consideration on the Adjournment Motion.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I rise to associate myself with the Amendment which has been moved by the official Opposition that the House should adjourn until 4th January. I am also glad to associate myself, in principle with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), in saying that during this period of national emergency it is essential that this House should be in almost continuous session to deal with the national and international problems which are arising. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook quite accurately said that this Government was brought into being after the previous Government had attempted to find a formula. I wish to say, in passing, that I have only had experience of the last Labour Government and the present Government. During the period of office of the Government which preceded the last Government I was, unfortunately, unable to be present in this House. I can only say that the present so-called National Government seems to be pursuing the same weak and cowardly lines as those which were pursued by the Labour Government.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the 10 days in which that Government attempted to find a formula. The 10 days which shook the Labour Government —and he said that they had discussed and rediscussed the national emergency. I quite understand that according to this Motion it is within the power of Mr. Speaker to call the House together at an earlier date than is here mentioned, if he is satisfied, after consultation with the Government, that the state of finance or, 2270 shall we say, the state of poverty in the country justifies that course. But is there not the chance that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite may be glad of this respite in order to evade the discussions and the gingering up which have been going on during the last five weeks in this House. I think it essential that the National Government, which received such an overwhelming vote in the country, should keep the House in session at a time when, we are told, we are going through a grave national emergency. If we return to our constituencies to-day, we shall meet with the people who were told only five or six weeks ago that there was a great national crisis. Are we to tell them the National Government has dispersed the clouds, that the financial situation has improved, that the state of trade is such that there is no reason for the House to remain in session? Are we to tell them that a splendid improvement has taken place in the situation, and that the upward tendency in the value of the pound, and the general conditions of affairs is such that it is not necessary for us to meet for another two months?
During the period of my suspension it was continually thrown at me by those who are now supporters of the Government that I had not bean in this House to represent my constituency during a period of grave national emergency. What is to be the answer to me now if I go to my constituency and say that although the pound has been declining in value, although bad trade has become chronic, although a creeping paralysis is passing over industry, and over many undertakings in this country, yet we have time for two months' holiday in which to play golf, and enjoy ourselves? There is no answer at all. It may be that during those two months an emergency will be created among the working class due to recent legislation. In those circumstances the Government might not desire to calf the House together. We might be anxious to put forward our views on what we would claim to be a national emergency, and a crisis in the lives of the common people of the country. Surely in that case we are entitled to have what is called a democratic assembly, in which to express our point of view, and our discontent during such a period.
2271 The National. Government is a powerful government. It was formed for the purpose of preventing a fall in the value of the pound, for dealing with questions of food shortage, or rises in the prices of food, and also for dealing with the figure of unemployment. No matter what may be our particular points of view we are all happy to see the improvement which has been taking place recently in regard to the unemployment figures. But the rot has again set in, and I am afraid that those figures will again be on the upward grade during what is the worst period of the year for most of the people of the country. The effects of the means test are just beginning to be felt. There may be grave reason from the point of View of those who represent industrial areas that this House should be in session to hear the complaints and the evidence of members of the House of the bad working of the means test, and its effect on the life of the community. While we believe in a changed order of society, we are anxious to have an improvement in trade which would assist in the development of certain businesses, but our anxiety on behalf of the great mass of the people tells us that if we believe in democratic government we must plead that this adjournment of the House of Commons should be for as short a period as possible.
We do not deny that the harassing duties of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and Members of the Government during the last month or two, with the influential deputations that they have been receiving from every single trade in this country, although very few from working class organisations, which have been almost entirely excluded, may require that they should have some sort of stimulating air and a little addition to their relaxation, but when we are told by the Press that a grave emergency and crisis are imminent in Germany, in the United States, in France, in Belgium, and throughout almost every industrial nation in this world, and when we are told that 44 crisis may at any moment break out in its most extreme form and bring every industrial country to its knees, surely we are entitled, after only five weeks' Session, to ask the Government not to adjourn for two months. I should like 2272 to know where the Members of the Cabinet are at this moment. There are none of them present, so far as I am aware. I am not too familiar with the faces of all of them. I know the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Dominions, but I would like to know where they all are.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
I thought the hon. Member was aware, as the rest of the House is, that the Cabinet is now engaged on urgent public business.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
My hon. and learned Friend opposite, who is such a pillar of strength to the National Government during this period of emergency, when he jumps about like a rocking-horse, comes along to advise us that the Cabinet is now in session. I am not interested in that. I am interested in having representatives of that Cabinet to give us real reasons, which have not been given yet, why the House should be dismissed for a period of two months. The Prime Minister and others may find it essential to have the Cabinet meeting. It may be that they cannot trust one of the Members of the Cabinet away, because of the differences that exist in the Cabinet, and it may be that the various cliques cannot trust the others and that therefore they must all be present during the decisions, but surely we are entitled to have a representative of the Cabinet here to give us reasons for going away for two months. Many of us will find our hands full in the constituencies with the effects that the National Government have created, but it is essential, in the interests of real democratic government, if we believe in it, that we should be here continually to put our point of view.
We are told that this is a splendid sounding board and an institution where we can put every problem and every idea of the common people before this country. The Prime Minister has stated that the Government are prepared to deal in some way with the question of rents, and I suggest that during the coming two months it is essential that we should know what is the Government's policy and be able to consider its effects during the coming winter. We know that the means 2273 test is bound to have the effect of throwing large bodies of people out of their homes. We are not antagonistic to your putting forth a plea on behalf of industrial undertakings, because with the present order of society that is really the basis of giving to the people wages and a certain security for the time being, but we put forth the plea that those who are being denied the ordinary decencies of life, and who are likely to be thrust out of their homes during these months, ought to have the assurance that Parliament can meet and discuss their grievances.
I do not think a more brutal and cruel measure than the means test was ever devised, and it will be found in a month or two to have a tremendous effect on every Member in every industrial division. We are told that in the ordinary way we shall have a statement of policy, but the only statement that we have had yet is a statement of inactivity, the same old inactivity that was in evidence from the former Labour Government, the same evidence of that policy of "Wait and see; we will consider, discuss, and examine, but we will never do anything at all." While I am prepared to associate myself in principle with this protest and with those who have spoken, we do not seek to go into the division lobby to create difficulties for any Government. If Governments were sincere and desirous of real action, we would be prepared to support them in this House, but we want to protest as strongly as we can against a two months' holiday during a time when we are drifting to a great national crisis and necessity.
It may be one of the antiquated customs of this House that we should have a good holiday while other people are starving, but it gives no satisfaction to me at all. It is outrageous for this House to disperse to-day with a problem that is growing and multiplying and that looks like overcoming and destroying the present order of society, with all the possibilities of suffering that that entails, with difficulties in world trade, with unemployment, the rents question, the means test, and so on. That is the sort of thing that is creating in this country an anti-parliamentary outlook on the part of a large section of the working class. If you want to preserve your institutions and have the respect of the public for 2274 them, you must show that you are sincere, that you have faith in them and in democracy, and that you are not only telling the electors that there are national problems and emergencies, but that you believe there is a real national emergency. If you had the serious and sincere outlook of reasonable statesmen, you would meet here, with probably a week or 10 days' respite, and then come here again at the beginning of the year to meet the problems that are bound to arise. I suggest that that course ought to be pursued in the interests of the people of this country, in the interests of industry, and in the interests of national government.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I desire with the rest of the House to follow the advice of the Patronage Secretary and to detain the House for only a moment. Expressions have been used in this discussion which will have the most grievous effect in the country, and as a back bencher I resent them. Someone in this House is entitled to be heard in addition to those gentlemen from Glasgow. We have heard them interminably since the House resumed, and before we separate a word should be said as to the mischievous speeches which they make in this House. As a back bencher, I resent the suggestion that the Government have failed in their duty, or that the House has failed in the attention which it has given to the duties that the Government have placed upon them. When we recollect the quarter from which those suggestions come, allowances will be made. I agree with one thing which the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) says. [Interruption.] I must ask the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) to give me the same courtesy that he usually receives himself. I agree with the hon. Member for Shettleston that there is rising in this land a suspicion that Parliament is a useless machine, and it is not right, when we have met here week after week to do our best for the country in a grievous hour of trial, that expressions of that kind should go forth from this House uncorrected and unchallenged. I personnally resent those expressions, and I believe that I am expressing the view of the overwhelming mass of the Members of the House when I say that we 2275 have done our best to carry out the commission which the country gave us. We expect the Government to lose no energy and time in carrying out that commission, and we hope that when we reassemble we shall receive from them further evidence of the energy and enterprise which they have already shown.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I want to say a word with regard to the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) wished to move, that the House of Commons should reassemble at an earlier date. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition said something to which we are entitled to make some reply. He said that as long as he was the leader of the Opposition he would see that the rights of the Opposition were safeguarded. May I remind him, if I may without unduly appearing to lecture him, that according to the traditions of the House he has not merely to safeguard the rights of his own party. The Leader of the Opposition has generally in the past preserved the rights of other minorities as well as of his own. We now find that the action taken by him was not to defend the rights of other minorities, but was intended to inflict on other minorities as much injury as he can or to take from their rights as much as he can. I am not going to develop that point more than to say this. It is said that we had no consultations. We never said that we had. What was said by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) stands as correct, that within five minutes of the right hon. Gentleman speaking he had no intention of dividing the House. When he came here this morning he had no intention. None of the Opposition had any intention, and the only intention arose when he found that we wanted to do it.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Has the hon. Gentleman a right to charge me with this sort of personal offence I As a matter of fact, I kept my seat, because I did not want to stand between the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and the House—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If I am a liar, you must allow me to say what I am going to say. I want to say that when I made up my mind to move this Amendment I had not the slightest knowledge that anybody else was going to move an Amendment of this kind, and I sent it up, as I have a right to send it, because I thought it right to do so.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not withdraw what I said. It is my considered view, and on another opportunity I will debate the matter more fully. The case for our having shown courtesy to-day is unanswerable, and if given the opportunity, I will return to the charge at the earliest moment.
The question before us now is whether we should meet on the 4th January or the 2nd February. We think that the House should meet on the earlier date, because it has certain important work to do. May I say to the hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench that we do not expect the whole Cabinet to be present. My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston, never asked that. The Cabinet knew that the House was meeting and that this Motion was likely to be debated. In ordinary courtesy to the House of Commons, therefore, the Cabinet should have had a representative here. That is all that we ask. It has been the common custom in the House to do that, and why has that not been carried out on this occasion? Is the reason that the Opposition is small and that they are not entitled to the same courtesy as a big and powerful Opposition I Are the Government afraid of their own majority, or dare they not leave any of their colleagues out of their sight? The hon. Gentleman said that there must be time for plans to be prepared. If the plans are to be far-reaching and a great national effort, the Government will need all the Parliamentary time that they can get. Even if they take up private Members' time, they will, if you take into consideration the financial business that must be got through, have very little time if they want to adjourn again early in August. If the Government are to introduce bold far-reaching plans, they ought to have the extra month. If they want something to do, they have always the Children Bill to go on with.
About this first week's business! This point has never been driven home. The 2277 putting on of these Bills means, in effect, that the House does not meet even on the 2nd February, because these Bills are only for time-wasting purposes; they are not likely to be passed. We used to have such Bills in the days of the Labour Government, and the Government before that—the 48 Hours Bill, the Representation of the People Bill—all just to take up time. Everybody knew that they would go to another place and then come back and that we should not pass them; but they just filled up time. If the Government need a day or two for consultation while the House is in Session they can just put on one of these Bills. So far as the Government are concerned it has the same effect as if the House were not meeting, only there is this difference, that hon. Members can come here and raise matters which they wish to bring forward. The Bills do not matter; the country would be neither richer nor poorer after they had been passed.
The real reason for this "put-off" is a twofold one. First, the Government are rent in twain—absolutely rent in twain ! The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) made a very true remark. He said that for 10 days before the election the Government tried to get a formula, but could not do so. Have we any reason to believe that if they get an adjournment for seven weeks or eight weeks they are likely to produce plans? Not a bit of it! This adjournment for eight weeks is a "put-off". It is eight weeks in which the Government ran escape the criticism of the House of Commons. It is an eight weeks adjournment beloved of the Prime Minister, so that he can go to Lossiemouth—his photograph in every illustrated paper—dining usually with a lady or a lord—strutting about the course so well-beloved of him—making his plans—going from place to place thinking out these deep, deep plans!
When the Tories were here and the Labour Government were over there the Tories said of him what I am saying of him now. What has changed? I see the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) is present. He will remember what used to happen. He has been a consistent defender of the Prime Minister in this House. He defended him when the Labour Government were in power, and he is defending him still. His patience seems to be inexhaustible. In 2278 the old days the Tories said the Prime Minister was not preparing any plans. The hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) used to be the best at it. He used to say: "Look where he is! He is not preparing plans at all." And the Chief Whip, who is now defending the Prime Minister, used to be behind the scenes arranging for his live young Tories to put questions to the Prime Minister. He used to say to them; "You go and ask him where he is preparing his plans." They used to say then that he was not preparing plans, and what has altered now? Where is the evidence of any alteration? Look at the Postmaster-General! He used to be a prime mover in it, he used to work early-morning shift, day shift and night shift at asking the Prime Minister, "Where are your plans and when will you produce them?" and used to shake his head when they were not forthcoming. They are not forthcoming now. He knows it. If we could get him on the quiet he would say now, "I know he is producing nothing"—not even rabbits. He would say that in private to you. [Interruption.] Well, well, I will not pursue that point any further.
My point is that the Prime Minister is producing no plans, and the Conservatives know it. A meeting of a very important Conservative Committee decided to back this Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Never!"] Well, they decided to do so if they could get 100 Members to support them. [Interruption.] Oh, yes. Not having the support of 100 Members they could not do it. They were absolutely discontented, this set, and they are the leaders of the real rebellion. There was a second group who said, "We are discontented, too, but we won't drive things to a division. We will make strong speeches, but we won't divide. We will march our men half-way up the hill and then march them down again." There is a third group who said, "We are discontented, too, but, by God, we can't let those Socialists come back to power! We must support the Government, bad as they are. Don't kick them downstairs; give them a chance." No section of the House is with the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Holford Knight!"] The Government do not take him seriously. 2279 The Government would like to be without him, I know. He was taken out of personal friendship—the same as they tried to get the Attorney-General taken by Montrose.
Why should we not come to this House and say the things that are in our hearts? Why should we play at mockery and foolery, and not say the things that are in our hearts—knowing that nobody is with the Government on this Motion, nobody We know the great mass of Members feel that the House ought to meet earlier. Everyone feels that there is business to be done—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—that there is important work to be done. [HON. MEMBERS "There is no crisis."] This Amendment ought to be carried, and we will divide on it. The right hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) bailed the provision in the Motion whereby Mr. Speaker can call the House together earlier, if necessary, and after consultation with the Government. Does anybody seriously think we shall be called together to consider any plans? We shall be called together by Mr. Speaker if there is a quarrel in the Cabinet. That was why we were, called back the last time—because there was a quarrel in the Labour Cabinet.
If the Minister of Education, the Home Secretary, and the Lord Privy Seal have a bit of a row we shall be called together. But that is not calling Parliament together to deal with a plan; that is not for action. It is for plans and purposes that we ought to meet. The hon. and gallant Member knows well enough that we shall only be called together if there is a row, a stairhead quarrel. We shall be hauled back to patch it up and give a new Government power to carry on for a time. Look at this winter! A winter of distress! The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) said people were going to suffer a fearful winter. Why should not this House, as the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said, come and think out a remedy for the distress in the country? Why should we not come back in connection with that Cunard liner being stopped Because we hold these views my hon. Friends and I will divide upon this Amendment, and we hope the House will not register its vote by a mere nodding of the bead, but register the vote that it feels in its heart, and 2280 what it really feels is that the House should meet again at an earlier date.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend. There are several reasons why I do so. At a time when the entire country is being shaken to its very foundation by an imminent crisis instructions have been given in my constituency to stop work on the greatest ship that has ever been built by the Cunard Company. I will read a telegram which I have received from Sir Thomas Bell this morning, who is the managing director of the firm which is building the new liner. I tried to get in touch with Lord Aberconway, who is chairman of the company, but he is ill at the present time. I got through, however, on a trunk call to Sir Thomas Bell, and I have received from him the following telegram:Replying to your categorical inquiries on the telephone regarding position of Cunarder, notices were posted in our yard at 7 o'clock this morning, reading as follows:—'Notice is hereby given to all employees in Clydebank shipyard engine and boiler departments that all work in connection with contract 534'—that is the number of the ship, because everything is done under numbers in the various departments—'is to be stopped as from noon on Saturday, 12th December. The services of all employees will therefore terminate at noon to-morrow. The owners express their profound regret that special circumstances have necessitated this total suspension of all construction work on the hull and machinery of this important contract. Wages will be paid this evening as usual. Lying time will be paid to time workers to-morrow on ceasing work, and to piece workers on Monday, 14th December, at 3 p.m.'In addition to these we are at once notifying rolling mills, forges and foundries throughout the country, also sub-contractors for auxiliary machinery and other numberless fittings for the Cunarder, that work on the same must cease at end of this week. I would add to information given to the Press by the Cunard that had work continued it would have involved placing orders in the early future of nearly £2,250,000 value for the whole of the ship's internal passenger accommodation, so under the circumstances all must agree it was their bounden duty to at once call a halt. You naturally ask how long this stoppage of work will continue. Well, unless the Government are prepared to co-operate with the Cunard bankers and take on a share of what otherwise would be transacted in the bill discount market, the stoppage can 2281 last three months or six months or even 12 months, for no one can tell how long it will be before the bill discount market will once more be functioning normally.— Thomas Bell.I have received another telegram, but I will not read it. That is an appeal coming from one of the greatest shipbuilders that has ever lived, and he is appealing on behalf of his workmen who are going to be thrown on the streets. My information is that this action is going to affect about 100,000 men and women throughout the length and breadth of Britain who are threatened with a complete stoppage of work. In my own constituency, the men working on this ship are stopped now. Thousands of men have been thrown out of employment, and the men who voted for the National Government are being automatically thrown on the streets out of work, and all that they have to draw from our incomparable social services is 15s. 3d. per week. At a time when this is going on, Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers are about to go away for a two months holiday. Here are thousands of men and women who are going to be thrown out on to the streets with nothing but 15s. 3d. a week to live upon. A group of four of us have been doing all we can to avoid these men being thrown out of work, and the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade have been making it more awkward for us. Our group of four back benchers represent the working-classes. Here is the Government of this country—the Government that asked to be returned because they were the tried men, the experienced men—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I must remind the hon. Member that the Question now before the House is whether the House should adjourn until the 2nd February or to some earlier date in January. I have been waiting for the hon. Member to make his argument on that question.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I appreciate very much the latitude which you have allowed me, but I am giving reasons why the Government should not go away, and why this House should continue in Session. If ever there was a period in the history of this country when it was essential that this House of Commons should sit, it is now. I am here speak- 2282 ing on behalf of the hardy sons of toil. I am not very much concerned about those who are well off, about those who have about £1,000 a year. I do not think they show value fur it—any of them—or even value for one-half of it, including the trade union leaders. They should only have the one salary. In the case of those who are Members of Parliament, that should satisfy them. That is the means test that should be applied.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I am interested in the working class in particular, but, at the same time, I have to say that the situation is of such a grave character that it is not only the workers in the shipyards, whom I directly represent, that are affected. It is not only the engineers, whom some people—the Labour party—would do all they can to keep me from representing, but I have been a member of my trade union for 40 years, and the whole of the Labour party and the trade union movement will never keep me from representing the engineers, bcause I am an engineer born and bred. To-day it is not simply the ordinary member of the working class that is feeling the draught. There is no section of the community to-day that is not wondering what is going to happen next. Think of the telegram which I have read from Sir Thomas Bell, the managing director of John Brown and Company, Ltd., at Clydebank. Imagine all the thoughts that are surging through the mind of every big industrialist in this country.
They do not know in what direction to turn. They put this Government in power. They used all their influence with their employés, not only indirectly, but to my special knowledge they directly used their influence with their employés to get them to vote National—or Tory, because that is what it means—to get them to vote this Government in to deal with this very situation that we are faced with to-day; and now, when they are at their wits' end, the Government goes away for a holiday—two months' holiday. How long are we going to stand it? What is to come of it? I want to say—I am going to see the Prime Minister this afternoon—that, if the Government of this country think that this is a normal crisis, that this is a 2283 normal situation, that they can just go away in the hope that, if the House of Commons were not sitting for a month or two, the situation would ease itself in such a fashion that when they come back things would have straightened themselves out, I hope that the Cabinet is not going to behave in such a halfhearted fashion. I hope the Cabinet realize that this crisis is world-wide, and that it is essential that the House should be sitting during the crisis which is affecting every country. Nobody knows better than the Prime Minister the situation in Europe, and they are dreading the situation in Europe.
I want to say, and I should like to say to the Prime Minister, that, with all our drawbacks, the criticism of the House of Commons is most essential now. It is essential, in the circumstances in which the people of this country and civilisation in general are living and moving and having their being, that our Government should know the feeling of the people of this country, and, with all our drawbacks and shortcomings, we come here and honestly give expression to the thoughts that go surging through the great mass of the people of this country. That is why we are sent here—because, with all our shortcomings, we are able to give expression to the thoughts that are surging through the minds of the working class. It is not given to every man to be able to do that. The working-class movement has thrown me and my colleagues up in that movement. That is our function which we are fulfilling, and the Government, by acting as they are now acting, are throttling our activities and denying to us, the representatives of the common people, our right of expressing their point of view.
This House has always been held to be the great sounding-board for the point of view of the British people, and that sounding-board is going to be closed. When there is a crisis, and when the Government know that there is a crisis, they are shutting off our criticism, they are shutting off our questions. They are doing that at a time when the Cabinet know that we are facing a winter which is bound to be the most hellish winter that the working-class of this country has yet endured, the reason being that the 2284 Government have reduced the purchasing power of the poorest people in this country, and our appeal has been refused on all sides when we asked that a Bill should be put through this House to make the reduction of wages illegal in this country. Had we got that, had we got an increase, had this Government done something to ease the situation, had they increased the purchasing power of the working class, they might have made it possible for the working-class mother to buy boots that her children require; they might have made it possible for the working-class mother to buy blankets where there are none, where children at this moment are lying huddled together with not a rag to cover them—no blankets and no bedding.
Some members of the Government have been associated with the working-class and have lived in working-class homes when out on propaganda on behalf of the Socialist movement. They know exactly the conditions under which the working-class live. They know that there are thousands of children who never know what it is to have a nice sleep because of the vermin gnawing at their little bodies. They could have said, "That is to cease. No child in this country shall know what it is to go hungry. No little boy or girl during this terrible winter that we are bound to face shall go barefooted." They know perfectly well that there are nearly 250,000 in the building industry unemployed. They could have said, "We will see to it that our people who require houses are going to have them. We are going to stop this stupid idea of paying unemployment benefit to house builders for doing nothing." I wish I could go to the country and say that the Government had exercised their tremendous power on behalf of those least able to defend themselves. If they had done anything to ease the situation, so that when they shuffle off this mortal coil it could be truly said of them that they had ameliorated the terrible lot of the working-class in their day and generation, if I had seen the semblance of any direct move being made along those lines, there would be some excuse for them going on a long holiday. I know from experience that they do not require a holiday. I have worked harder and longer hours than any of them. I and my four colleagues have come to that door 2285 for a month at two, three, four and five in the morning.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Unless the hon. Member who is in possession of the House gives way, the hon. Member is not entitled to be on his feet.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
A lot of us would like to hear something more about this Cunard question. It is to our interest that the workers of the country should be kept at work, and I am prepared to support the Clydesiders if they would go those lines.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The question of the Cunard Company and what the Government can and cannot do does not arise on this Amendment.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I mentioned it as a reason why the House should sit. I do not want to occupy much more time, because my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) desires to speak for 2½ hours, but I want to make an appeal to the Government that it is not playing the game. I know I shall have to answer for the speech I am making, and I am prepared to answer. This Cunarder is the only ship being built at Clydebank. Rationalisation was the policy of the late Labour Government. We protested against the effects of rationalisation.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now getting very far from the Amendment. I allowed him to mention the Cunarder at the beginning of his speech as a reason why the Government should come back earlier, but he has already exhausted that.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
It was evident that there were some Members who wanted more information, and I was willing to oblige the House and the country. If you, Sir, will allow me two minutes, shall finish. There were two of the greatest shipyards in the world at Clydebank, and the Labour Government closed down one of them. They scrapped it. They not only scrapped Dalmuir, but they scrapped Miller and Napier's, the adjoining shipyard, and now practically the only job on Clydebank has been stopped. In these circumstances, considering not only the local but the national 2286 situation, the Government have made one of the greatest mistakes in adopting their present attitude, having regard to the facts and to the tremendous amount of unemployment. It is possible that the shutting off of the Cunard not only means the stopping of thousands of men in my constituency, but it means the putting out of employment of thousands in other parts of the country. That is the position with which we are faced. This is only the beginning of the crisis. I would ask the whole House to vote in the Lobby with us as a protest against the Government going away for two months' holiday in circumstances such as I have tried to describe.
§ Mr. LOGAN
The Motion before the House is that the House shall adjourn until the 2nd of February, to which an Amendment has been moved that the House shall meet on the 4th of January. We have been discussing in this House this afternoon—and the President of the Board of Trade gave certain answers in reply to questions—a matter of national importance. He distinctly stated that if the position was as serious as had been made out and if representations had been made from certain quarters the Government would certainly have considered the position, but as no such move or suggestion had been made it was considered that the company concerned was able to carry on its own business and conduct it in its own way. That was agreed to by some hon. Members in the House, but we have since heard of a telegram having been received from the head of a great firm making known circumstances which were not known to the Minister. I suggest that before the question of the Adjournment is decided the House should consider the matter of great national importance which has been raised. There can be nothing worse than a dislocation of trade at the Christmas period. The Prime Minister has said that there was nothing of a critical nature and that it was quite right that we should go away. The Motion on the Paper states that it shall be open to the Speaker to recall the House if necessary after consultation with the Government. Why should we be recalled some weeks hence when one of the difficulties is here already to be dealt with before we leave. Three of the Clydeside Members have spoken, and we are told that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. 2287 Maxton) intends to speak for two hours and a half.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I agree with what has been said by the three Clydeside Members with regard to the particular difficulties. It would be absurd to argue that because we are going away there is no political crisis and no difficulty in the country. You must either be logical or illogical. Either this nation is in financial difficulties or it is not. Hon. Members must remember that they came here to exercise common sense. Hon. Members opposite cannot expect the Opposition to listen to tomfoolery, but the argument put forward by the Prime Minister is that this House—although we are told that the country is in extremis—can now adjourn for eight weeks, and that if anything should arise the House will be called together again. I think that something has arisen. We are right in the midst of danger. Every newspaper you pick up seems to be better informed than the Members of the House of Commons. But if there be a critical position and if this country is in danger, and if hon. Members have not gulled the public by telling them stories outside and got here under false pretences, what legitimate reason can we have for going away at all I It is the most amazing thing that I have ever struck. There is a fire, and the fire brigade goes away on holiday. The ship has struck the rocks and is sinking, and the captain goes away to have a game of nap. Is it not ridiculous to say that the Government Benches are devoid of Cabinet Ministers, because those Ministers are away on public business? I venture to say that they are now in the train perhaps on their way home.
§ Sir ALFRED BUTT
Is it quite fair that a Member of this House should get up and make a statement of that nature when a responsible person on the Treasury Bench has stated that the Cabinet at the present moment are engaged upon urgent business, and that it should go out to the country that that statement has been made? I think that the hon Member should withdraw it.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I have a perfect right to arrive at my own conclusions. I am prepared to pit my capability against that of the hon. Member in any direction from the mental point of view, and I am perfectly justified, in view of the fact that the statement to which he referred was made in the House over an hour ago, in arriving at the conclusion that the Cabinet are not at present doing important business. Proof can be produced by some Cabinet Minister at least being present on the Front Bench. My contention is that it is a game of bluff. I am convinced that right through the piece the national crisis has been a game of bluff, and that the going away on holidays is part and parcel of the customary annual procedure in the clown and pantaloon business at Christmastime. [Interruption.] I may cause amusement. Amusement would have to be of an intellectual character I should imagine to please you; you would not get amusement from the ordinary clown. Hon. Members cannot get rid of responsibility, no matter how much they may enjoy the position and laugh. They cannot get rid of the fact that they have definitely stated that there is a crisis. If their contention is logical, they should be here if there is a crisis. Is there no crisis in regard to shipping? Is there no reason, when 5,000 or 6,000 men may be thrown out of employment at this time of the year, that the Cabinet should see to it they should have employment?
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) reminds me that he is an engineer. My home, so far as my children are concerned, depends upon engineering. Thousands more on Merseyside cannot afford to allow the Government to have eight weeks' holiday. They want to know what is being done. They know that in going home we cannot have any influence. There is no good to be done by talking in the streets. The day for talking on soap-boxes or anything of the kind is finished. This is the place to do business. This is the shop where the business has to be done. Let us talk shop. Where are the Ministers who can talk business? To whom am I to refer with regard to the shipping interests of the Port of Liverpool? A question was put to-day with regard to piracy on board ships near Shanghai; British seamen deposed and Chinese taken on. Have I 2289 no right to ask why we should go away for eight weeks' holiday?
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
Is it not a fact that the Royal Naval ships of this country are the only ships which are suppressing piracy and that they are carrying out a very useful work in doing so?
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am fully aware what the newspapers stated in regard to piracy at Shanghai. I have been wondering whether the piracy at Shanghai that was being suppressed meant that men were being put off the ship at Shanghai and the rush was on the part of the Chinese to get on board to take their jobs. I have absolute evidence of patriotic British shipowners, flying the British flag wanting the protection of this country to protect cheap Chinese labour. Meanwhile, this House is about to go away for its Christmas holidays. We are to have the Santa Claus business, with something in our stockings at Christmas. It is wrong and immoral that we should go back to the large industrial centres and say that we as Members of Parliament are having a holiday. I want no holiday. I came here to do business. I came here to back the National Government, with all its vices, and God knows it has many, to do some constructive thing. I am sick and tired of listening to gibes about "serve you right" that have been thrown at us, because we have been too charitable, even to members of our own party.
There is no hon. Member who can say that he can get rid of his responsibility. Is there one hon. Member who can go home honestly and say that for two months he has a right to take two months salary from this House, and do nothing for it? Is there any responsible Minister who thinks that he is justified, in a time of national emergency, with the great poverty that must come, even in normal times and especially in these times in our great industrial and congested areas, in going away in this critical period for a long holiday? I have visited many asylums in my days. [Interruption.] I have seen many like the hon. Member who interrupts who have been let out. We have examined many patients and we have never found any patient in any asylum who, when they were becoming sane, ever thought of going out until there was a complete recovery. When 2290 things are absolutely in an insane condition in the country, you are going out to the electorate to tell them that the ship is sinking, everything in the nation is rocking and rotten, but you have to take eight weeks holiday. It is reductio ad absurdum that Members of Parliament, the enlightened intelligentsia, who told the story of how wonderfully clever they were going to be when they got here, should now admit they have got here that they are fed-up, they have no policy and they are going on a long holiday. If any appeal of mine is worth anything I would support that, if we are not able to remain here now, the Government ought be reasonable and curtail the length of the holiday and come back at an earlier date, because the responsibility of the National Government and our responsibility as an Opposition is so great. The people outside, if the National Government do not come to their assistance, may become desperate. We are making Communists, we are making insurrection and looking for trouble that could be avoided by not taking full and honest responsibility.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I support the Amendment that we reassemble the 4th January rather than the date suggested in the Motion. I apologise to the Postmaster-General on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself that he should have been compelled to sit for an extended time on the Front Bench waiting, I understand, to reply to a discussion that is to take place. I regret that he has been detained, but having regard to his own record in Opposition I feel sure that he will be able to look at the thing through our eyes. He knows, as I know, that this particular matter and other particular matters that may be raised on the Adjournment Debate are of a purely academic nature. There is no more futile Debate that takes place in the whole course of the Parliamentary year than the Debate on the Adjournment. The hon. Member who raises a subject knows that there can be no vote on it, he knows that it can have no effect and the Minister knows that too. There is a general feeling of Christian kindliness and benevolence pervading the assembly. The total amount of information that is exchanged between the one side and the other could as adequately be done by the normal process of question and 2291 answer which is available to every hon. Member every day during which the House sits.
The time that is left over for the ordinary subjects of Adjournment Debate is somewhat limited. I do not think that those who have experience of the House will be unduly heart-broken over that, but, if the Amendment that I am supporting is carried, that we should come back a month earlier than the House has suggested, there will be extra time to deal with matters such as broadcasting and the improper use of broadcasting by the present Government and the equally improper use that would be made of it by any other Government which had the power. These matters can be discussed during the extra month of Parliamentary time that I and my hon. friends are anxious should be available. I am not prepared to go as far as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan). I am a moderate man. I am not prepared to say, as he does, that the Government are already away on holiday. I think they have been engaged in a Cabinet meeting this morning, although probably I expect they had had lunch for the last half hour. [Interruption.] At any rate, there has been a Cabinet meeting, but I am prepared to bet my hon. Friend below me, the Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt)—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not allowed in the House"]—a very, very, small amount, that the Prime Minister will be in the train for Lossiemouth before I am in the train for Glasgow.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Everybody knows that the conception of a Cabinet which wants us out of the road so that they can get down to business for the next seven weeks is a myth. But that is what young Tory Members believe is going to happen. In their childish simplicity, which endears them to all our they believe that the Government want to get us away, we are mere talkers, not workers, [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite have not to do all the work of their party, like a party of four. They have not to draft Motions, to get questions prepared, to prepare their own speeches, 2292 do their own deviling, look after their own correspondence, and then fight for their chance in the House. The conception of a Cabinet that is going to sit in permanent session from the moment they get rid of us at four o'clock until the day we come back in February, is a myth, a fantasy of the imagination. Let me assure new Members on the opposite side that they are being kidded.
I have seen what has been happening this morning; the old game. You never divide against the Motion for the Adjournment; it is not, good form; it is never done. If new Members do that sort of thing they will put a blot on their parliamentary copy book which they will not be able to erase. "You must keep away from the Chamber, run away. Let them talk; they will soon come to a standstill." I have seen all the moves going on this morning according to plan, all the devices for getting the Government away out of range of the House of Commons, out of range of the common people. At the end of last July a Labour Government was sitting on those benches and they believed all that the Prime Minister told them, like hon. Members opposite are doing to-day. I remember in my early days of Socialist propaganda being in the company of a Labour man who was an enthusiastic Socialist, a member of National Union of Railwaymen. He talked about all the different orators of the Labour and Socialist movement he liked to hear and he came, of course, to the Secretary of State for the Dominions. Hon. Members will excuse the language, it is the language of the railwayman: "Oh I always like to bear Jimmy talk; you cannot believe a damn word he says." I never quite understood how the two parts of that statement hung together, what was the connection between them.
At a meeting of the Labour party last summer the Government said that everything was going on quite nicely. "The Government are going to be in for a long time, and we are going away now for a well earned holiday. When we come back again on the 5th October we shall be ready with big new developments, which we will put through and the Government will go on for the next two years in the normal way." That was in July or the beginning of August. We were only beginning to get down to our holiday 2293 when we were told that we were in the midst of a crisis. We were brought back by telegram and were told that the country had been within 24 hours of complete collapse. The Cabinet had not been sitting, they had not been working out plans, they had not two ideas upon which they all agreed. The Prime Minister had certainly been thinking, with a card up his sleeve—the joker. It is now on the Front Bench, he has pulled it down. I did not believe then nor do I believe now that in September the country was within 24 hours of catastrophe. I do not believe it. But what I do believe is that you are nearly three months nearer a catastrophe than you were then, and you are going away for your holiday and handing over your responsibility with a complete irresponsibility. Most of the members who are here for the first time are going round their constituencies. To those constituencies they made the promise at the election that they were going to attend to their Parliamentary duties, not as So-and-so had done. They said "We are not going to be the mere plaything of a Government. The Government will not march us into the Lobbies to obey the crack of the Whip. We are there in new circumstances. We are a new type of men specially thrown up by the nation to meet a special crisis. We are not going to be mere Gilbert and Sullivan M.P.'s, who leave their brains outside and do just what their leader tells them. In all my Parliaments I never saw a crowd that collapsed so completely under the atmosphere, under the tradition, under the supposed etiquette, under the conception of what is called good form, as this gang of heroes who came in at the last election to save the nation in its hour of need.
Make no doubt about it; to-day we are not discussing an academic Motion; we are discussing a real Motion, a definite Amendment. It is in the power of the 615 men and women who are sent here by confiding constituencies to decide yes or no. I say to hon. Members, your constituents when you got their votes did not know anything about Parliamentary good form, did not know about what is done and what is not done, did not know that a Whip was more important than your conscience. They believed that they had got in you men of out- 2294 standing integrity. [Laughter.] Someone laughed when I said that. I do not take that view of the electorate. I did not say that Members returned here are men of outstanding integrity. I said that the constituencies have returned them here believing them to be men of outstanding integrity, men who were prepared to put every consideration, personal, family or business, secondly to their duty to the nation, and above all that they were men who were going to apply their own judgments to the problem presented to them, and that they were going to make their decisions on these problems fearlessly and honestly, and to act on them fearlessly and honestly.
I say also to hon. Members, there is not one of you who believes in this long adjournment proposed by the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes"]. There has been a strange silence on the Government side of the House as to any real reason for the extended holiday. Is it the Prime Minister's health? I know the Prime Minister's health as well as I know my own. It is exactly the same kind of health as I have, up and down. A couple of days at the seaside and he is on his feet again, or one round, which he can get at Richmond or Mid-Surrey get it quickly and be in London again if necessary. Is it this idea of working out plans? Is that the excuse they are giving you chaps? If it is working out plans, then the Government were elected on a fraud it was a fraudulent election, because they were returned, as against us, because they had everything ready—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, a free hand."]. Yes, a free hand to do whatever they liktd—[HON. MEMBERS: "After inquiry"]. And they knew what they were going to do—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]. Then you are back to the Labour Government, and this Government's mandate to-day, in reference to a crisis is exactly the same as that of the last Labour Government—to consider and to inquire. I put it to the House in this way: Here is the Prime Minister. He has been in this House 25 years with a small break, and the Lord Privy Seal precisely the same time. I know, because I worked every time to put him in, and we found the money to pay his wages until 2295 parliamentary salaries were passed by the Government for the Buchanans and the Maxtons and the McGoverns and the Kirkwoods. The workers put in their pennies weekly to pay their Prime Minister and the Noble Viscount an annual salary to keep them in the House of Commons. They have been here 25 years. The Lord President of the Council has been here longer, I think. He is one of the senior Members of the House.
§ Mr. MAXTON
At least he is a man of very considerable Parliamentary experience. The same remark applies to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to every one of them. There is scarcely a man in the Cabinet who has not had a very extended experience of Parliament, and most of them have had experience of responsible office. I put it to the spokesmen of the Front Bench that it is not too much for me to ask that if the House has done without their services now for 3 hours to-day, it is just about time that one of them was showing up. I am not asking for the whole lot. I want to see one. I want them to answer this question. They are all men of considerable Parliamentary and Governmental experience. They have all been in office. They are returned now for action to deal with the crisis, not for consideration of the long-term policy that is to get us into something like permanent security. The House knows that perfectly well. The Government are returned for action to deal with the crisis, and, having dealt with the crisis, there can be as much consideration as you please in the development of our long-term policy. After 25 years or thereabouts of Parliamentary and Governmental experience, if these men do not know what to do, if they have not found the via media for the warring points of view in their Cabinet, they will not find solutions seven weeks from now. They will not find their via media then.
It is gross carelessness for this House to allow itself to be dismissed for seven solid weeks without having any power to get together before then. It is true that the Government have power to call us 2296 together, but we have no power to call the Government in front of us. The two situations are entirely different. There are two sets of circumstances that may very easily present themselves. One is that the Government would want to meet, and the House would meet; and the other, in which the House would want to meet the Government.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. Member trusted the last Government right up to the hour of the collapse. Do not let us get out of our responsibilities by saying that we trust the Government.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am asking the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) not to get himself out of his responsibilities to Wolverhampton by saying that he trusts the Government. He trusted the last Government. Then, what happened I It can happen once, and it can happen again. The man that can be taken in by one confidence trickster can easily be taken in by another.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Yes, the same conjurer. If the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton has that type of conscience and intelligence, I am quite sure—if I may say this without profanity—that when he appears before the Old Gentleman, it will not be accepted as a valid excuse for his conduct on various occasions if he says that the Whips told him. I know that the group that sits with me on these benches is not popular in the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Well, it is a sort of mixed feeling. They do, and they do not. The point of view that we are endeavouring to urge upon this House does not find acceptance with the majority. I want the other groups and sections, and individuals, who are just as keen, as prejudiced, if you like, and as dogmatic and egotistical about their point of view as we are, as they have a right to be, and as we have a right to be, to put aside all the cajolery and the nonsense about what is "done" and what is "not done," and to put this to themselves: "I promised those decent, trusting people, in Wolverhampton, in Walsall, in Durham, in Mile End, in 2297 Bridgeton, in the Isle of Thanet, and elsewhere, that, if they returned me, they would find in me a responsible, fearless, honest representative. I promised them that, and to-day, when I have it in my power to show my honesty, my fearlessness and my diligence; by voting for the
§ Amendment as against the Motion, I am going in to do it."
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 218; Noes, 22.2299
|Division No. 43.]||AYES.||[2.26 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Albery, Irving James||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Ferguson, Sir John||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Flanagan, W. H.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Apsley, Lord||Fraser, Captain Ian||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. B.||Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||Munro, Patrick|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Ganzoni, Sir John||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Nunn, William|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Penny, Sir George|
|Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'th, Centr'l)||Granville, Edgar||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Graves, Marjorie||Petherick, M.|
|Bernays, Robert||Grimston, R. V.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Hales, Harold K.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Hanley, Dennis A.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Blindell, James||Heligers, Captain F. F. A.||Raikes, Hector Victor Alpin|
|Bossom, A. C.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Herbert, George (Rotherham)||Ramsbotham, Herswald|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hornby, Frank||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Horobin, Ian M.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Burnett, John George||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hurd, Percy A.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Janner, Barnett||Salmon, Major Isldore|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Scone, Lord|
|Clarke, Frank||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Leckie, J. A.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Caiman, N. C. D.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Colville, Major David John||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cooke, James D.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Smithers, Waldron|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lumley,, Captain Lawrence R.||Stewart, William J.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Lyons, Abraham Montagu.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Cross, R. H.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Crossley, A. C.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Curry, A. C.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Magnay, Thomas||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Denville, Alfred||Maitland, Adam||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Dickle, John p.||Makins Brigadier-General Ernest||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Donner, P. W.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Doran, Edward||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Martin, Thomas B.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||White, Henry Graham|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Mills, Sir Frederick||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Whyte, Jardine Bell||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wills, Wilfrid D.||Wood, Major M. McKenzie (Banff)||Captain Sir George Bowyer and|
|Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)||Worthington, Dr. John V.||Major George Davies.|
|Womersley, Walter James||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Edwards, Charles||McGovern, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hicks, Ernest George||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Maxton, James|
|Buchanan, George||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I wish to know, Mr. Speaker, if it would be in order to move an Amendment to insert, in line 5, after the word "Adjournment," the words "or on receipt of a requisition signed by 40 Members of this House." Such an Amendment would give you power, if you received a requisition from 40 Members, to call the House together. If it is in order, I propose to hand in an Amendment to that effect.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The actual terms or the Amendment would he in order though it would be quite contrary to the usual practice. However, if the hon. Member wishes to move it he can do so.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move, in line 5, after the word "Adjournment," to insert the words:or on receipt of a requisition signed by 40 Members of this House.I need not occupy much time in connection with this matter. The number of 40 may not, perhaps, be the best number for this purpose, but we feel that some power, apart from the power of the Government, ought to be vested in Members of Parliament to requisition a meeting of the House at a date earlier than that specified in the Motion.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I beg to second the Amendment.
I believe it to be an unusual course to pursue, but at the same time I consider that the circumstances surrounding the national life of this country are also quite unusual and justify unusual courses. While there is power in your hands, Mr. Speaker, to call the House together if the Cabinet should so desire, still there is no power in the hands of the ordinary Members to convene a meeting of this House in what they believe to be circumstances 2300 that would justify its being called together. In nearly all local bodies there is that power to call together the assembly if they should deem it expedient or necessary, and therefore I think it is a power which the ordinary Members of this House ought to have. We are desirous, if circumstances should develop during the coming two months, that the House should have the power placed in the hands of Members who are elected by their constituencies, that if 40 of them can get together, and they believe that circumstances justify it, they, the rank and file, who derive their authority from their constituents, should have the right to be heard and have that power placed in their hands. I second the Amendment because I think it is of the essence and in the interests of real democracy.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I suggest that there is no necessity for accepting the Amendment. I think the House can very well leave the matter in the hands of the Government and of Mr. Speaker, and by that means ensure that if there is a real emergency, the House will be called together again. If the Amendment were accepted, it might very well be that 40 Members, who might have their own ideas as to the purposes for which the House ought to return, might compel the whole House to come back. Therefore, I suggest that we should reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. MAXTON
We only proposed to move this Amendment formally and to divide upon it, but the speech of the Postmaster-General compels me to reply, because he wiped the Amendment off with two or three airy sentences. Boiled down to its essence what he said was, "You can trust the Government." [HON. MEM- 2301 BERS: "Hear, hear!"] If my hon. Friends will permit me to say so, every Government starts—it is a weakness of our Parliamentary system—with everybody believing in it and trusting in it, and it finishes up with nobody believing in it and trusting in it. If you could reverse the process, it would be all to the good. If you started being very suspicious and making them prove themselves every inch of the road, you would find that it would be better for the general management of the country's affairs than this careless enthusiastic trust at the beginning, gradually degenerating into wholesale condemnation.
I want the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General to notice that in putting down "40 Members" we did not have any selfish, narrow interests to serve, because with a minimum of 40 we cannot requisition the House for any fantastic reason. It takes a united official Opposition with 40 Members to get the House sitting, or, what is quite conceivable in this Parliament, 40 responsible governmental back benchers. The one set in this House that cannot convene is we who move the Amendment, although I know that whoever convenes it, if it comes together, we shall be here. It is not treating the House with respect to say that 40 Members of it are not capable of deciding what is a serious situation and what is not. You have irresponsibles in all parts of the House, but if you got 40 Members seriously appending their names to such a requisition, in my view it would be the bounden duty of the Government to take that requisition seriously and to have the House specially summoned. We are giving the House the opportunity of retaining some measure of power in its own hands. If it refuses to take that power, we cannot do any more, but we have done our best.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
After hearing the speech of the Postmaster-General, and his off-hand way of treating us with contempt, I want to say that we do not stand for anybody treating us with contempt, although it may be for only five minutes. He said that he could not allow the House to be called together by 40 Members. There are not 40 of us, but it is not we who made that rule. Forty Members is a quorum of the House, and 2302 why the right hon. Gentleman should take upon himself to deliver such an utterance as that it would not be fitting for the House to be called together by 40 Members, I do not know. It was those who evidently had some better sense of proportion than the Postmaster-General who suggested that idea, and I hope that the House will see to it that the rights and privileges that belong to the House of Commons are retained. Every one of the rights and privileges of the private Members of this House are being torn from us. We are being denied every right, we are being shut out from criticism, we are going to be sent away out into the country, and we are not going to have the right of assembly here. All our idea of democratic representation is being nullified by this Government. First they got away with Orders-in-Council with a free hand, and we are standing here trying to stem this tide of reaction that is setting in to the political life of this country. In other words, it is tantamount to a dictatorship.
I would again draw attention to the fact that there is just one Member of the Government, the one and only himself, now present. [Interruption.] Well, there are one or two. On such an important occasion it is essential that the whole Government should be here as far as possible. If they believed that this was such a serious crisis in the political and industrial life of the country, they would be here to answer the questions that they knew were bound to arise. Another telegram has been handed to me, and it makes a further reason in the midst of other reasons why it should be possible for the House to be brought together. It is a telegram from the Town Clerk of Clydebank about the Cunarder. With the permission of the House, I will read it.My Council requests that you would make representations to the Government with a view to their taking action to prevent any suspension of work on the new Cunarder. Unemployment is very rife in the borough and the surrounding districts, and any suspension would greatly accentuate the unemployment problem and cause increased distress at this time. I have wired Colonel Thom in similar terms and would be obliged if you would keep me advised of any Government action.—Town Clerk, Clydebank.The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Colonel Thom) is in Scotland on 2303 Government business. After we have done all that we can to arrest the attention of the House, surely the Government will now concede our humble petition that 40 Members should be allowed to requisition a meeting of Parliament. We do not want to make the House sit continuously, for we want to give Members a chance to get away to their friends and have some fresh air; some of them require it badly; but we ask that the House should come back in the beginning of January. The class that I represent get only five or six days, but they are not holidays; they are idle days because they are not paid for. We are appealing for the working-class who are up against it as they were never up against it before. I have read an appeal from Sir James Bell, and now I present an appeal from the Town Council of Clydebank. They are not Socialists; they are men who are doing what they can to save Britain from wrack and ruin. This House sits idly by when it sees the prestige of Britain being held up to ridicule. That is what the stopping of this Cunarder means. We challenged the world that we would build a ship the like of which was never built before, and gain the blue riband of the Atlantic.
No man knows the shipping interests better than the President of the Board of Trade, and he should respond to the request of Members in every quarter who are standing by me to do something to make it known that the Cunarder has to go on. It does not mean simply men being out of work in Clydebank. It means men walking the streets all over the country. I make an appeal to the Government on behalf of Britain—[Laughter.] I see some young Tories laughing. There is not a better specimen in the House of a Briton than I am, and no man has a better right to speak for Britain than I have. I worked for Britain until T was 40 years of age—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Question before the House is whether 40 Members should be able to summon Parliament.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I will get back to the point. I want to thank you for allowing me to read that telegram and to put my point of view in the House. I have drawn attention to the serious state of affairs not only in my own constituency but in the country and every Member who takes any interest in the welfare of Britain knows that I am not exaggerating. It is for this reason that I support my colleagues in the Amendment. I hope that we shall not be required to divide the House. If we do, and we do not carry it, the responsibility rests with those who vote against us.
§ Mr. HALES
I am sure that at the back of the minds of the majority of Members of the House there is an uneasy feeling and an anxiety that before we leave the precincts of the House we should be in a position to face our constituents with the certainty that something definite either has been done or is going to be done in the near future. That is more to us than all the questions that are to be settled later on, such as the arrangements of finance and the problem of war debts. Make no mistake, this National Government will be held responsible for all the troubles that come on this country—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Amendment before the House is that 40 Members should be allowed to summon Parliament. That is the only Question before the House.
§ Mr. HALES
I was going to say that the House should be able to go away with a feeling that something is going to be done with regard to protective duties on steel. That is the whole trouble to-day. If the advice of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) bad been taken, and a duty put on finished steel products, we should have accomplished something.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 17; Noes, 208.2305
|Division No. 44.]||AYES.||[2.56 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||John, William||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Kirkwood, David||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Buchanan, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lawson, John James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Daggar, George||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. McGovern and Mr. Groves.|
|Edwards, Charles||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Alexander, Sir William||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Munro, Patrick|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Apsley, Lord||Ferguson, Sir John||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Flanagan, W. H.||Nunn, William|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fraser, Captain ran||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Penny, Sir George|
|Balniel, Lord||Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Petherick, M.|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'th, Centr'l)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Granville, Edgar||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Bernays, Robert||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Pybus, Percy John|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Grimston, R. V.||Raikes, Hector Victor Alpin|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Hales, Harold K.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Blinded, James||Hanley, Dennis A.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Herbert, George (Rotherham)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Braithwaite, J. C. (Hillsborough)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hornby, Frank||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Horobin, Ian M.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Burnett, John George||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hurd, Percy A.||Scone, Lord|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Janner, Barnett||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Leckie, J. A.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Clarke, Frank||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Liewellin, Major John J.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Colville, Major David John||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Cooke, James D.||Mabane, William||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||McLean, Dr. W H. (Tradeston)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Cross, R. H.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Crossley, A. C.||Magnay, Thomas||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Curry, A. C.||Maitland, Adam||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Wood, Major M. McKenzie (Banff)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Martin, Thomas B.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Dickle, John P.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Donner, P. W.||Mills, Sir Frederick|
|Doran, Edward||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tfd & Chisw'k)||Sir Victor Warrender and Major George Davies.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
Question put and agreed to.
That this House at its rising this day do adjourn until Tuesday 2nd February next; provided always that, if it appears to the satisfaction of Mr. Speaker, after consulation with His Majesty's Government,
that the public interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier time during the Adjournment, Mr. Speaker may give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time, and any Government Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion that may stand on the
Order Book for the 2nd day of February or any subsequent day shall be appointed for the day on which the House shall so meet.