HC Deb 25 July 1940 vol 363 cc984-7
Mr. Lees-Smith

Will the Lord Privy Seal state the Business for next week?

Mr. Attlee

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Tuesday—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. A Debate on foreign affairs will take place. I understand that it is desired that that should take place in Secret Session.

Wednesday—Report stage of the Budget Resolutions.

Thursday—Consideration of Amendments to the Emergency Powers (Defence) (No. 2) Bill, which are expected to be received from another place. Second Reading of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Mr. Lees-Smith

With regard to Tuesday's Secret Session, will the Lord Privy Seal endeavour to ensure that Ministers who are in charge of Departments under discussion will be present regularly throughout the Debate and, as far as possible, one or two Cabinet Ministers, as, since there is no report, without the presence of Ministers to whom we are addressing our observations, a Secret Session becomes largely valueless?

Mr. Attlee

Every effort will be made to see that there is a Minister of the Department on the bench. The right hon. Gentleman will realise that on foreign affairs there is only one Minister in the House, but otherwise other Ministers will attend, and, as far as possible, Cabinet Ministers will be present. If a Cabinet Minister is not there for a few minutes, he will take upon himself to inform himself from other Ministers on the bench of what has transpired in his absence.

Mr. Wedgwood

Why should the Debate be secret?

Mr. Granville

Is it the intention to have a statement in Public Session by the Prime Minister and for the remainder of the Session to be secret, or is it the intention of the Government to have the whole Debate secret?

Mr. Attlee

The Government are perfectly prepared to have the Debate in Public or in Secret Session, but efforts have been made to ascertain the general view of the House, and it seems to be the predominant desire that the Debate should take place in Secret Session in order that Members might state their cases fully and the Government might make the fullest possible reply.

Sir Percy Harris

Would it be possible to have part of the Session in public and part in private?

Earl Winterton

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration—I do not ask for an answer now—to a request proffered by several friends of mine that there should be at some early date a statement on the question of the contributions of the Colonial Empire and India towards the war effort, both in material and personnel?

Mr. Attlee

Certainly, Sir.

Mr. Cocks

What method was adopted to obtain the views of Members with regard to a Secret Session? It has never come before Members of our party.

Mr. Attlee

It is necessarily not possible to ask every Member of the House what his view is. The usual method was adopted of asking representatives of groups of Members for their views.

Mr. Mander

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it desirable that the House should have some further opportunity of showing its whole-hearted support for the attitude of the Government towards the Nazi peace offensive?

Mr. Silverman

Will the Lord Privy Seal bear in mind that there is a considerable section of the House who are not of opinion that next Tuesday's Debate should be in secret, that there is in the country a growing feeling of distrust about the frequency of these Secret Sessions, and that especially on such a subject as next Tuesday's Debate a Secret Session might be open in the country to the worst possible construction?

Mr. Attlee

The hon. Member will realise that, in making that statement, he has given his view. I have endeavoured in the usual way to collect the views in general of the House, and it has been represented to me that the majority of Members think that on this particular subject at this particular time it would be more satisfactory to have a Debate in Secret Session. This is not the decision of the Government wishing to have a Secret Session. The Government are perfectly prepared to have a public Debate or a secret one. They are endeavouring to meet the general wishes of the House of Commons.

Mr. Gallacher

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer to my Question earlier on mean that there will be a further statement by the Government on the reasons for closing the Burma Road?

Mr. Attlee

My reply to the hon. Member was that there will be an opportunity of discussing the whole matter on Tuesday. He can, of course, put down a Question and get a fuller reply if he likes.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to give the House an opportunity of discussing the Motion in my name?

Mr. Attlee

The hon. Member will realise that there are opportunities in the Debates on the Budget Resolutions and the Finance Bill to discuss the general points that he puts. Perhaps he will consult with his friends and see whether there is a general desire that the matter should be discussed on a particular day.

Captain V. Adams

When does the right hon. Gentleman hope to be able to come to a decision as to whether or not we shall have a Recess?

Mr. Attlee

I am afraid I am not in a position to say at present.

Resolved, That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Tuesday next."—[Mr. Attlee.]