HC Deb 04 July 1940 vol 362 cc1007-9
Mr. Lees-Smith

Will the Prime Minister state the Business for next week?

The Prime Minister

The Business for next week will be:

Tuesday—Committee stage of the Supplementary Vote of Credit for War Expenditure, 1940. Afterwards the Adjournment of the House will be moved, and a Debate will take place in Secret Session on the work of the Ministry of Economic Warfare.

Wednesday—Second Reading and remaining stages of the British North America Bill [Lords]; Committee and remaining stages of the Unemployment Insurance Bill and the Merchant Shipping (Salvage) Bill; Report stage of the Supplementary Vote of Credit; Second Reading of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill [Lords], and of the Confirmation of Executors (War Service) (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Thursday—Supply (18th allotted day); Committee, when there will be a Debate on agriculture.

During the week it may also be necessary to make progress with a special Consolidated Fund Bill, which will be required after the House has agreed to the Supplementary Vote of Credit.

Perhaps I might say about the Business to-day that after going formally into Committee of Supply the Adjournment of the House will be moved, and I shall make a statement on the War Situation. In view of the wish expressed last week for a full and frank Debate on matters relating to the war, it is proposed after my statement to move the necessary Resolution so that the House may continue the Debate in Secret Session.

Mr. Cocks

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that it was never so true as to-day that we are the one voice in Europe and that we must speak freely to Europe and not in secret?

The Prime Minister

I hope that on some days we shall speak freely and sometimes in private.

Sir H. Williams

While fully appreciating what is in the Prime Minister's mind so far as to-day's Debate is concerned, I should like to ask whether he does not realise that there are certain dangers in speeches being made by Ministers and being published in respect of which there is no subsequent discussion published. Does he realise that there are essential dangers in a procedure of that kind?

The Prime Minister

It is very difficult to please everybody, but I understood that a Secret Session was felt to be desirable so that the House could get into the most intimate relationship with the Government and all views could be expressed without their having to be read next morning by the enemy; and at the next moment, when we are indulging in that procedure at the wish of the House, my hon. Friend raises the opposite point of view and claims that the discussions should be in public. It is a matter of total indifference to the Government if hon. Members would like to have the discussion in public. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That could not be the case to-day, because we said last week that we would, if it was desired, have the discussion in secret.

Sir H. Williams

I do not think the Prime Minister quite appreciates the point I was trying to make. The point I am raising concerns the position when a statement is made by the Prime Minister and that statement alone is published, and the remainder of the Debate is not. I am entirely in favour of having Secret Sessions from time to time, but the question is whether it is desirable to have a Debate partly in public and partly in secret.

The Prime Minister

The statement which I shall make has certainly been considered from the point of view that it will be read abroad to-morrow.

Sir William Davison

Is not the whole point that in a Secret Session certain suggestions may be made to the Government for amendments in tactics and so on, and that they would be useful to our enemies if they knew of them? Is not that the whole object in having a Secret Session?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to discourage organs of the Press giving entirely imaginary summaries of what may take place in Secret Session?

The Prime Minister

I have not seen any of that; very much to the contrary.

Resolved, That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Tuesday next."—[The Prime Minister.]