HC Deb 05 July 1939 vol 349 cc1453-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]

11.8 p.m.

Mr. Mander

I desire to take the earliest opportunity, after the result of the Division which has just been taken, to ask the Patronage Secretary whether he has any statement to make on behalf of the Government with regard to what action they desire to take. It is obvious that it is not possible for a Government with a majority of 230 to carry on when night after night in this House their supporters give them a majority of less than 100; and when, as has been the case to-night after a long day's Debate, they have a majority of only just over 30, it is perfectly clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with the position of the Government. Many rumours are going about with regard to possible changes in the Government, and it would almost appear that the Government is in a state of disintegration.

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Member is raising something which took place in Committee. It would not be in order to raise such a matter in the House.

Mr. Mander

I quite appreciate that, and I shall not make any further reference to any proceedings which took place in Committee, but I would ask the Government seriously whether they would make some statement with regard to the future position they are going to take up in this House, in view of the general failure which has evinced itself on many occasions during the last few weeks, not only in Committee, to which I cannot now refer, but in the House on Second Readings and occasions of that kind.

Mr. McGovern

Send for Molotov and Maisky.

Mr. Mander

When you have a Government with a majority of 230 able to obtain a majority of only 30 to-night, it requires some explanation. I ask the Patronage Secretary to say whether he proposes to adjourn the House for a few days to enable the Government to consider their position?

Colonel Sandeman Allen

What is the position of the Liberal party? Fifty per cent. of them have obviously been dining out to-night.

Mr. Mander

I should have thought the position of the Liberal party to-night was exceedingly powerful and effective. On a Liberal day, at the end of the Debate we have reduced the majority of the Government to 30.

Mr. Maxton

Do I understand that the hon. and gallant Member opposite, because he cannot defeat the Liberal party, proposes to starve them to death?

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Garro Jones

A short time ago I ventured to interrogate the Prime Minister as to the growing habit of Ministers receiving public engagements to dinner outside this House. I desire to ask to what extent this dining habit is spreading to back-bench Members. It is not only the absence of hon. Members opposite of which I complain, but the purpose for which they are absent. Can the Patronage Secretary give any explanation of where they are? The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite mentioned that 50 per cent. of the Liberal party were dining to-night. At least, they were dining within the precincts of the House.

Mr. Speaker

The dining habits of Members of this House have nothing to do with the Government.

Mr. Garro Jones

The Government exercise increasing supervision over the absence or presence of their back bench Members. There are one or two Government Whips stationed at the exits in the Division Lobby, and we can be sure that if those Whips received instructions to prevent the egress of Members to-day, the Government would have had a stronger majority. Is the Patronage Secretary arrogating to himself the functions of Mr. Speaker? Mr. Speaker alone is entitled to grant leave of absence for any prolonged period. Although the right hon. Gentleman might not give six months' leave of absence, if he divides his total strength into two shifts he is carrying the rights of the Patronage Secretary a great deal too far. I think to-night will have given him a lesson far more powerful than anything we can give him by mere words. He has received a strong reprimand by votes.

Mr. Pritt

I am sorry to find myself for once in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones). I am in favour of his allowing them all to leave the House all the time.

Adjourned accordingly at a Quarter after Eleven o'Clock.