Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Tuesday, 21st May."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out "21st" and to insert "14th."
My hon. Friends and I do not think it right that this House should adjourn at a time of crisis of this kind for such a long period as 12 days. We have felt that the House should meet again, certainly not later than Tuesday next. We had this Motion in mind before the events of last night, and if it was right before last night that this House should not adjourn for longer than till Tuesday next, I suggest that the events of last night and the vote which was taken then make it all the more necessary that this House should meet again at the earliest opportunity. The situation has been considerably changed by the vote which this House recorded at a late hour yesterday. There is a feeling undoubtedly to-day throughout the country that at last after eight months, or really after 20 months, we should be putting ourselves upon a real war footing. There must be, quite obviously, a reconstruction of the whole of the Government machine, and it is the hope of everyone that now at long last it will be put upon a truly national basis. By that, I do not mean a mere all-party basis. It is not a question of whether a Whip chooses and the other Whip chooses, and we merely get the choice of certain persons who are representative of the parties on either side, but that the very best persons who are available in the nation should be asked to join the Administration.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and learned Member's remarks appear to have no relevance to the Amendment. He should confine himself to reasons for not having 21st May in the Motion and for substituting 14th May as the day for the reassembly of Parliament. That is the only question before the House.
§ Mr. Davies
I thought that these matters might be relevant to the reasons why the House should not adjourn for so long but should meet again at the earliest possible moment. If this question of reconstruction has to be considered by 1436 the Government, it will have to be considered at the earliest possible moment. It is unfair either to the country or to Ministers concerned that there should be any delay about this matter. There is at the moment in the mind of everyone a feeling that this reconstruction is about to take place. The House is representative of the nation. We are the trustees of the people, and, therefore, we should be present and not scattered over the countryside for a period of nearly a fortnight while these matters may be discussed. For that reason, I thought it was only right that I should mention the possibilities that would have to be considered in making that reconstruction, and I thought it right to point out that the country was calling for a real national Government. I hope also that it will be an Empire Government, and that the representatives of the Empire will also be considered.
The situation is growing more serious day by day. At any moment there may be a new thrust. The thrust that came upon these other countries came overnight. We know how Denmark was invaded, how Norway was invaded. Holland is waiting at this present, moment, not knowing when its hour of destiny will arrive. It may arrive to-night; it may arrive over this week-end. The same thing applies with regard to Belgium and with regard to the Balkans, and we know not what may be before us. In these circumstances it is not seemly that this House should be adjourning for a long period. We ought to be setting an example to the rest of the nation, and the example that we are setting at the present moment is having its effect throughout the country. I observe that at present some of the munition factories, like Woolwich Arsenal, are proposing to close down for three or four days, that industry at Sheffield is closing for four or five days, and that some of the mines are closing for three or four days, and even now the output is not comparable with what it should be at a time like this. What is happening? The Government suggest, not only to this country, but to the rest of the world, that we can just go on as before, that we can go on as in peace-time, that we can have the same kind of adjournment as we had last year and the year before, when war was not threatening us.
1437 Let us have a realisation of how near this thing is upon us, that it is upon our very doorstep, and let us by ourselves show the example that we ought to be showing to the rest of the nation. Since I put forward my objection to this long Adjournment, I have had several letters from various parts of the country. Those letters show that the eyes of the country are upon this House. People want to know what we are doing, what progress we are making, what effort we are making, what example we are showing of what we ought to be doing in order to put forth the full war effort of this country. I should have liked to have gone on to consider the kind of reconstruction that should take place, but I understand from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that that is a matter which I cannot raise now, and I will content myself with saying that I am certain that at this moment, while this clock is ticking on, one knows not what danger is awaiting Holland, Belgium, or the nations of the South-East of Europe. Is it right that when these people are trembling as to what fate may befall them, we should disperse for a holiday? In my submission, we should not.
§ 12.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen, East)
I beg to second the Amendment.
Before certain recent events took place my hon. Friends and I had already had a discussion and decided to put this Amendment on the Paper, because we felt that, in view of the existing situation, not so much in this country as abroad, it was undesirable that what may perhaps be described as the opening of the summer campaign, this House should separate for as long as 10 days; and that it might not make a very good impression in the country or outside the country; and I still feel that very strongly. Certainly, nothing has happened during the last two or three days to diminish the seriousness of the strategic position which now confronts us; and indeed, we were assured yesterday by Ministers that the strategic situation is a serious one, and that we must be prepared for any emergency at any moment. In these circumstances, I submit that 10 days is too long a time for us to adjourn.
It would be idle to pretend that the situation has not been further aggravated, if I may so put it, by what took place 1438 in the House last night. We are now confronted not only with a very serious military and strategic situation abroad, but a serious political situation at home. Many of my hon. Friends may disagree with me, but I submit that, on the whole, the events of yesterday proved that the Government, as at present constituted, do not possess the confidence of the House and of the country in sufficient measure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is at least a reasonable interpretation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In these circumstances, I feel it is more than ever necessary that the House should not separate for a period as long as 10 days, leaving behind an administration in which it does not possess sufficient confidence, at any rate in time of war. The Prime Minister himself made an appeal to the House yesterday to realise the menace, and to increase our efforts. I could not help thinking that if he had made that appeal two years ago, or even one year ago, with all the force with which he made it last night, we might have been in a happier situation to-day. Apart from that, he made a final appeal for national unity, and many of us feel that national unity, real national unity, is now absolutely essential.
§ Mr. Boothby
I will only say that I believe it is common knowledge to every hon. Member, if he faces the facts, the truth, and the realities of the present situation, that national unity can never be achieved under our present political leadership.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
When I first read the Amendment on the Order Paper, I had a great deal of sympathy with it, but after the episode of last night I have definitely altered my opinion, and oppose it. I felt there was a great deal to be said in favour of it. When the suggestion was first made, I felt that the House should set an example to everyone in the country and curtail, although not abolish, its holiday. I realise, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) so eloquently put it, that we are meeting to-day at a time of danger, the gravest danger that our nation has ever faced, danger not only to our material prosperity, but to the spiritual things which we value even more highly. 1439 Therefore, I feel it is essential that all the political leaders and industrial leaders of the country should consult together to get the strongest possible Government.
The only thing that influences me is this. Which is the best method by which we can abolish personal considerations and party considerations, and all unite together to get the strongest possible Government? Is it the best method for the House to meet in a few days' time and continue acrimonious Debates, not to the edification of the rest of the world? Surely, the best method, now that we all realise there has to be a complete change of Government, that there have to be new members from all parties and members from outside, men such as Sir Walter Citrine and Mr. Ernest Bevin in the Government, would be to have this Recess of 10 or 12 days in which daily consultations could take place with the leaders of the Opposition and the leaders of various sections of opinion. That is the right procedure, and it is the procedure which was adopted in the last war. At a time of intense danger such as the present, I beg the House, in the words of our Prayer, tolay aside all partial affections, prejudices, and private interests,and collaborate together to get the best possible Government. I ask hon. Members to leave 10 days for this close consultation between all sections and between the leaders of all parties. For these reasons, I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I think there is a good deal in what has been said by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus). Certainly, consultations will have to take place between the leaders of the different parties, but there is no reason why we should not meet next week, and then, if it is found desirable to adjourn from day to day, to do so. Obviously, an entirely new situation has arisen as a result of what happened fast night. It is all very well for certain hon. Members on the back benches opposite to pretend that everything is all right and the same as before, that the Government have a majority, and that they can carry on under the present leadership. There had always been 1440 opposition from this side of the House to the Prime Minister, but what we are faced with now is that last night, on a three-line Whip, after a personal appeal from the Prime Minister, something like 44 loyal supporters of the Government—[Interruption.] Are they not?—44 Members who take the Government Whip, and who had always supported the Government so far, went into the Lobby against the Government. That number contained not unimportant Back Benchers, but some of the leading personalities in the House. I think that nearly all the Privy Councillors outside the Cabinet voted against the Government. [Hon. Members: "No."] A very large number did; all those of distinction. What is more important is that 18 young men in uniform—
§ Mr. Mander
I will not pursue the point, except to say that in deciding whether we should adjourn for this period or not, the fact that 18 Government supporters in uniform voted against them is a matter which we have to take into consideration. I say this with reference to the suggestion made by certain hon. Members, who are still guided by party feeling, that we should carry on as if nothing had happened. Obviously, in view of what happened last night the Opposition have to play their part. It is no good having a crisis of this kind, involving as I think the formation of a new Government, a national Government to which we can all contribute our utmost efforts, without every Member, to whatever party he may belong, being willing to sink his personality and play his part. I hope that, whether we adjourn until Tuesday next or until the following Tuesday, the intervening period will be usefully occupied.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
Will the hon. Member enlighten the House as to which of his arguments are in favour of restricting the period of the Adjournment, and which are opposed to that course?
§ Mr. Mander
I am trying to balance the arguments, in order to give the hon. Member and others an opportunity of making up their minds, after a dispassionate 1441 statement of the case for and against this proposal. I was about to say that, whatever course we adopt, I hope that the intervening period will be occupied in a devoted, unselfish and patriotic effort by Members of all parties to secure a National Government which will win the war in the shortest possible time.
§ 12.36 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Spears (Carlisle)
If the procedure which has been suggested by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) were possible, I would be entirely in favour of it. If the House were given some assurance that the Recess would be employed to reconstitute the Government, I think that assurance would be welcomed on all sides, but failing any such assurance I do not think, for many reasons, that this House ought to adjourn for the period proposed in the Motion. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty is not in his place. He ought to support the view which I have just expressed, because it is a view which he held very strongly at the beginning of August last when the same question arose. This is what he said on that occasion:It seems to me that this House is a recognised addition to the defences of Great Britain, that we are safer when the House is sitting and that the power and will of this House count very much…therefore it seems to me that it would be regrettable if we, as it were, go out of action, just at a time when the situation is becoming most acute.Again, he said:At this moment in its long history it would be disastrous, it would be pathetic, it would be shameful for the House of Commons to write itself off as an effective and potent factor in the situation, or reduce whatever strength it can offer to the firm front which the nation will make against aggression."—[Official Report, 2nd August, 1939; cols. 2439. 2441, Vol. 350.]That is what the First Lord said in August last when we were not at war and it seems to me that those arguments are much more potent to-day. This situation, I believe, would never have arisen had the Prime Minister consented to reorganise his Government and place it on a national basis, as the vast majority of the House wished, and if he had in that reorganisation got rid of some of his colleagues whose ability is not perhaps great enough to cope with the war situation and had also eliminated from the Cabinet certain elements which, as the House well knows, 1442 are more given to procrastination and delay than is desirable in time of war. As regards the points which the House ought to discuss without delay, there is, for instance, the question of the immediate creation of a secretariat to the Supreme War Council of France and Great Britain. There is, to-day, no organisation which carries out the decisions reached by the two Governments sitting together. That is an impossible situation which leads to utter and absolute confusion. I do not know and I do not believe anybody else knows who is in command of the Allied troops in Norway.
§ Captain Sir William Brass (Clitheroe)
May I ask my hon. and gallant Friend what that has to do with the question of whether we should sit again on 14th or 21st May?
§ Brigadier-General Spears
It has much to do with it. It is one of the matters which Members of this House ought to discuss in this Chamber, instead of going on holiday. The consideration of that question was too long postponed in the last war. The creation of a secretariat to the Supreme Council is absolutely essential and should be undertaken without delay. There is another matter which at the present time does not brook delay. That is the problem of how the Committee of Chiefs of Staff is to function. That is a question of supreme importance in relation to the conduct of the war. I think hon. Members know that a long time ago, in 1921, the Salisbury Committee inaugurated—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member seems now to be going a very long way beyond the terms of the Amendment, which is that the House should adjourn until Tuesday, 14th May.
§ Brigadier-General Spears
My arguments are directed to showing that these questions to which I have referred, would be better discussed by the House on 14th May, than on 21st May.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and before proceeding with my remarks I should like to ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on the reasons 1443 which may be adduced in favour of the Amendment.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
Will the people of Llandudno and Colwyn Bay be in favour of what the hon. Member is now supporting?
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I think the hon. Member can risk the assumption that I know my own constituency better than he does. Earlier in this Debate, Mr. Speaker, you in your discretion have seen fit to intervene on one or two occasions regarding the line of argument which it is permissible to follow in supporting this Amendment. I submit that the events of the last few days in this House and the repercussions of those events in the country have, materially and directly, affected the question which we are now discussing and I trust that you will be good enough to allow me to deal to some extent with those events in considering whether we ought to adjourn now for 10 days, or for a shorter period. I hope that we may be allowed a little latitude.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must point out that it is not permissible on this occasion for an hon. Member to make the speech which he did not make yesterday.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I have no intention, Mr. Speaker, of trying to get in any remarks which I did not make yesterday or the day before, owing to my failure to catch your eye. I would, however, point out that we have now had time to scrutinise the Division List of last night, and that we have before us this morning, facts of which we could not possibly have taken cognisance earlier. I do not see how it is possible to debate a Motion for the Adjournment of the House without making reference to the result of the Division.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I submit that last night's Division has transformed the whole situation in this House. The situation in this House is not the same now as it has been at any time since 1935 when the Government came into office. A very substantial number of Members, who usually support the Government, felt in the circumstances of the day that they must oppose the Government, and those 1444 who did so included, as I have said, a number of Privy Councillors. In addition to that a very considerable number of Members who, in the ordinary way support the Government, deliberately abstained last night to support them in the Division Lobby, and I found myself as one of those abstainers. For one who for five years has known something about the tutelage of the Whip's Office and all its discipline, that abstention is a matter which one must take into account. It may not be a very heroic course, but a number of Members deliberately abstained last night, among whom were a number who generally constantly support the Government, and its constitutes one of the most grave reflections on the Government.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, if you will not allow me to develop further arguments which, to my mind at all events, will weigh with me and many other Members in this House as to why we should not adjourn for the period proposed in this Motion. However, I will turn to one or two other reasons, which perhaps are not quite so forcible, but at the same time they are reasons which appeal to me, and I think to Members of this House, and to a large number of people in the country. I understand that there are some circumstances connected with the Labour party which would make the adjournment of this House for a less period than proposed in the original Motion a matter of some inconvenience I am quite sure that that would weigh very considerably with the House, but great events are pending in the country at the present time, and not a small event will be the meeting next week of representatives of the working classes of this country.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
As I was saying, many matters of moment to this country are impending, not the least of which will be to determine whether organised Labour is to participate in the Government of the State. From that point of view I feel that there are considerations 1445 which might weigh against the Motion which has been submitted by the Government and which submission has to be proved. In spite of that I wish to put before the House certain considerations which, to my mind, make it completely wrong to adjourn this House at the present time for a period of 10 days at a time of internal crisis in the State and great peril without. First of all may I submit that to adjourn the House now will be a matter which will be very difficult for a large number of people to comprehend? They will not be able to understand why we should be adjourning for 10 days after the critical events that have been taking place. In addition to that, the Sovereign power of Parliament which, after all, is supreme, and which the next few weeks will prove conclusively is supreme, when complete and drastic reconstructions of the Government is impending, will not be able effectively to function, as it ought, by a suggestion that the House should adjourn for 10 days. We know that the Government, as it exists, will not be the Government which will be in this country, and it is important that Parliament in its Sittings should be able to face and have some effect in the reshaping of the new Government which is to replace the present one; the Government should not be replaced by a series of cabals outside the walls of this House. For the House to adjourn would be to abrogate the powers entrusted to us of shaping the destiny of this country, and it would have its effect in the Empire abroad at the present time.
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I apologise for interfering in this internecine quarrel among late supporters of the Government and people who may still be assumed to be half-heartedly supporters of the Government. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the circumstances in which this Debate is being conducted are not such as to bring Parliamentary institutions into great credit. It is hardly fitting, when discussing a matter of this kind that the House should be led by the President of the Board of Education, supported by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health.
§ Sir Edward Campbell (Bromley)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that outside this House there is a war going on?
§ Mr. Ede
It is because we realise so thoroughly that there is a war going on that I have made those remarks. After all, what are we being told this war is about? It is a war to maintain parliamentary institutions and democracy, and while on this side of the House every Member will vote as he pleases, I propose to give reasons for supporting the Amendment which has been moved. During the past two days in the two principal speeches which have been delivered I have heard uttered two grave threats to the supremacy of Parliament in this country. The first was by the Prime Minister on Tuesday when he said:We cannot help it, but in this Debate we are giving hostages to fortune. Our military advisers have told us in very solemn terms of the dangers of holding such a discussion."—[Official Report, 7th May, 1940; col. 1083, Vol. 360.]And last night the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, after dealing with a similar argument said:I hope this will be the last time."—[Official Report, 8th May, 1940; col. 1357, Vol. 360.]I want, if I may, to read to the House a description which was given of the character of the founder of the family of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Sir William Davison (Kensington, South)
On a point of Order. Has the history of the founder of the family of the First Lord of the Admiralty anything to do with the question whether the House should reassemble on 14th May rather than on 21st May?
§ Mr. Ede
I think you will see, Sir, when I have finished the quotation, that the concluding words will show that it has everything to do with the subject under discussion. Trevelyan said:Marlborough would not have been England's greatest leader in war if he had not understood the necessary relation between her war effort and her settled constitution. In that understanding he was not surpassed by Chatham himself. Long absences abroad, great victories in the field, the flattery of all Europe never made that cool head forget that he must answer for all he did to the Commons of England.
§ Sir W. Davison
Will the hon. Gentleman say how he could answer better on the 14th May than on the 21st May?
§ Mr. Ede
Because between those dates steps may be taken, if the spirit of the two sentences which I have read from responsible gentlemen who are at present supposed to sit on the Front Government Bench are carried out, for which we may never have the opportunity of calling on them to answer. I suggest that in these times it is more than ever essential that the House should insist that the Government must answer to it speedily and effectively for the actions that they take. When the lives of millions of brave men are at stake we ought to be assured that as frequently as possible Ministers shall be able to answer here for the use they make of these men and the risks they call on them to run. I speak as one who fought in the last war, and I regret to see again the same loss of life and liberty of our troops through the way in which, unprepared and insufficiently supported, they have been sent into action. This House, no matter what our personal feelings may be, ought not to separate for so long a period as we are asked to do in this critical stage of the war.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I should like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) in his attitude to the Amendment. I think that we can leave it with full confidence to the Prime Minister and his advisers to take cognisance of the effect of last night's Division. It is of paramount importance that the sittings of Parliament should not interfere with the negotiations which, I hope, will take place to set in office a truly national Government which will enable us to carry the war to a victorious conclusion. It is, therefore, in the best interests of the country that we should rely upon the head of the Government to exercise the powers that exist to call Parliament together at an early date if outside events necessitate it. Departmental Ministers have had two valuable days taken up by continuous sessions in the House, and the enemy is probably reckoning what it means when Ministers responsible for Service Departments have been unable to be in their offices for that time. It means a great congestion of work thrown upon the Chiefs of Staff, and I am convinced that Members in all parts, while recognising the effect of the Division last night, feel it only right that the Executive should be left free and not hampered for a 1448 moment in the functions they must exercise day by day in carrying the war to a successful conclusion. I do not think many of us appreciate that probably if we can hold the enemy until next November we shall win the war. Therefore, every one of us, irrespective of party, must see that nothing in the nature of party loyalties or anything else matters and that we ought to leave it to the Executive to reassemble the House if circumstances make it essential.
§ 1.1 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)
Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word on behalf of the Government. I am sure the House will forgive me, realising that the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet are meeting; otherwise, they would have been here to speak for themselves. During Question Time the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister whether implicit in this Motion was an understanding that the Government would ask Mr. Speaker to call the House together should occasion arise. The Prime Minister gave that assurance to the House. In case there are some hon. Members who were not in the House at that moment, let me repeat on behalf of the Government that, should the occasion arise, the Government will not hesitate to advise Mr. Speaker of their point of view and ask for the House to be called together at the earliest possible moment. I trust that with that assurance the House will agree, some discussion having taken place, to proceed now to other business.
§ Mr. C. Davies
We have made our protest, and in view of the statement which has been made by the Patronage Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Thorne (West Ham, Plaistow)
Before the Amendment is withdrawn I would like to remove one impression made by the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment. He made a statement which was incorrect.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and learned Member has asked leave to withdraw the Amendment, but if the hon. Member continues the Debate it cannot be withdrawn.
§ 1.4 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I fail to see why the intervention of the Chief Whip and the condition that he has mentioned, which was already known, should make any difference. I have generally opposed long holidays for the House, and I oppose on this occasion because grave events are taking place in regard to the Government. I realise that Mr. Speaker has power to convene the House on the advice of the Government if further events develop. At the same time, I am not so greatly carried away by Parliamentary democracy that I think it matters a great deal whether the House meets next week or not, because I realise that the Government and the Civil Service usually carry on the country's affairs and will carry on the war.
I can take rather a detached view because, not being a supporter of the war and not having gone into the Lobby last night for greater drive in the war, I want to ask that a few things should be borne in mind by those who advise that the House should meet on Tuesday next. For one thing, the Labour Party Conference will be taking place next week, and a large number of members of the Labour party will be absent. Then there is the fact that I am going on a cycling tour and shall be away, probably, for three weeks. I hope the war will not suffer in consequence of that fact. I want to go to Belgium, Holland and France—if I am permitted to go there, which is not always certain in these days. Therefore, even though Parliament does not meet next week I do not see that it should matter a great deal, because I noticed in the Debate last night that among the Members who were demanding greater vigour in the war were the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and the late First Lord of the Admiralty, both of whom went away for six or seven months' holiday. If they can go away for six or seven months I do not see why Parliament should not be entitled to 10 days' holiday.
In view of the fact that there are bound to be negotiations going on during the next few days it might be wise if we gave time for developments to take place. The Labour party have to consult their rank and file at their Whitsuntide conference—it is a very obnoxious thing to have to do—on whether they will permit 1450 them to join the Government or not. They cannot give a decision on whether they are going into the Government until they have consulted those who attend the Whitsuntide conference. Therefore, taking a detached view, and holding the balance between the two sections in the House, I think we should allow time for things to develop and for the discussions which must inevitably take place.
Further, I would say in reference to Parliamentary democracy that if the country could see the House as I saw it yesterday they would not be so enamoured of Parliamentary democracy. It was a state of affairs which brings us on towards the stage where people say it is time that we had a Hitler in this country. Therefore, Parliament should be allowed a day or two to cool down. Whether I am in favour of the war or against it, I think that if we are determined to wage war it should be waged with the minimum loss of human life. Therefore there is an argument for taking in the best elements in the country, detached from party, whose minds go along that groove. There is also the mood of the country to be considered. I have been attending the by-election in East Renfrewshire, and every Conservative I met—and people should understand that I have no antagonisms in this matter—said that the only hope for this country was for the Prime Minister to surrender office. That is the genuine view of every Tory I have met in this country. I have every sympathy with those who have the job and those who may take on the job, because others will fail also if the present administration fails. The task is such that I do not see success being attained by any administration. Therefore, I say, "Allow your heels and your heads to cool." Allow the consultations to take place, and let us hope that when Parliament does meet we shall throw up in this country a Government which will realise that the lives and fortunes of millions of human beings are at stake, and that if we are going to wage war it must be waged in a manner that will promote the interests of those people. If any people stand out in this national emergency who are frustrating the will of the people they should quietly move out and allow others to take their place.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Sir W. Davison
I wish to say a few words about the speech made by the hon. 1451 member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in support of the Amendment. There could not be a better reason for not supporting the Amendment than his speech. He began by saying that at a time when the lives of millions of our fellow countrymen are at stake it was undesirable for this House to adjourn, and then commented on the fact that there were very few Cabinet Ministers present and that they ought to be on the Treasury Bench.
§ Sir W. Davison
I do not mind whether the hon. Member said it first or second. He said it one way or another. To my mind the lives of our fellow countrymen are much safer if they allow Ministers to get on with their work of helping to wage the war instead of having to come here, especially after having had two days of it, to be nagged at and harassed by questions. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment said that as had happened recently we might have things coming on us overnight, and therefore Parliament ought not to adjourn until the 21st of the month. All the arguments of those in favour of the Amendment are arguments why Parliament should not adjourn at all, and why we should have daily discussions, with all the Ministers present. The "New York Times" said of our discussions over the last two days that they were a splendid example of democracy but that it was not war. Many of the speeches made yesterday, as I endeavoured to point out on several occasions, were most prejudicial in the national interest.
§ Sir W. Davison
The point of my remarks is that it is very desirable that we should have a little interval free from speeches such as we had yesterday, which would relieve Mr. Hee-Haw of his occupation. [Hon. Members: "Haw-Haw."] I call him "Hee-Haw," which is what he is. I think that every quarter of the House feels it is desirable that there should be some reconstruction of the Government, and surely it is desirable 1452 that the Prime Minister should have 10 days for that purpose. The Speaker has power to call the House together immediately in the event of any emergency, and surely it is better that the Prime Minister should have time to make up his mind on this matter of vital importance. The Labour party, moreover, are having an important conference. If they are going to help the Prime Minister, as everyone desires they should, so that we may get all sections of the country together, is it not desirable that there should be time given to them to meet together and consult to see whether they can obtain approval to this course. For these and other reasons I think the Motion should be carried. Members will be assisting the Forces and assisting the country by allowing Ministers to attend to their duties instead of coming here to be constantly harassed as they were yesterday.
§ Question, "That '21st' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Tuesday, 21st May.