HC Deb 07 November 1939 vol 353 cc36-7
Sir Annesley Somerville

(by Private Notice)asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement as to the position of the Defence Ministers as Members of the War Cabinet?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

My attention has been called to a statement recently made in a newspaper to the effect that there is now an Inner Cabinet composed of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Lord Privy Seal, whose decisions are withheld from the Defence Ministers until they come before the War Cabinet in the form of recommendations. The statement is entirely without foundation. I cannot too strongly deprecate the publication in war time of such malicious inventions which, while they may do little harm in this country provide enemy propagandists with precisely the kind of material for which they are constantly seeking.

Sir A. Somerville

Can the Prime Minister tell us the name of the newspaper in which this statement appeared?

The Prime Minister

It was the "News Chronicle."

Mr. N. Maclean

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it the usual custom in this House for an hon. Member to rise and ask the name of a paper which has given a certain statement?

Mr. Speaker

There is nothing unusual in it.

Mr. Thome

May I ask you whether you are aware, Mr. Speaker, that sometimes when hon. Members hand in questions at the Table, when the questions mention newspapers they are not allowed?

Mr. Speaker

That is a rather different matter.

Mr. Lawson

May I ask whether it is usual to have Private Notice questions about statements in newspapers?

Mr. Speaker

The question was not about a statement in a newspaper.

Mr. Maclean

Further to my point of Order. If hon. Members are not permitted to give the name of a paper from which they are drawing a question, why is it that the same thing can be given in a supplementary question asked across the Floor of the House? If it is not in order in one case, why is it in order in another?

Mr. Speaker

It depends upon what the answer is. A supplementary question is put in order to elucidate further an answer which has already been given, and the supplementary question should be in order if it has arisen from the answer. Further, in this case a newspaper statement was mentioned in the answer, and it is only reasonable that the hon. Member should ask the name of it.

Mr. Maclean

Is it not the case that if a newspaper may be mentioned in the answer to the original question, it should be permitted to be mentioned in that question?

Mr. Speaker

That does not follow.