HC Deb 03 December 1942 vol 385 cc1311-4
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the Business for the next series of Sittings?

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

The Business will be as follows:

First Sitting Day—Committee and remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill; Second Reading of the National Service Bill; Second Reading of the Workmen's Compensation Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Second Silting Day—Committee and remaining stages of the National Service Bill and the Workmen's Compensation Bill; Second Reading of the Supreme Court (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords].

Third Sitting Day—A statement will be made in Secret Session on the developments in North Africa, including the position of Admiral Darlan, and an opportunity will arise for a Debate, if the House so desires.

It may be convenient if I inform the House as to the proposed date of the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess. If all necessary Business has been disposed of we hope to adjourn on the 3rd Sitting Day after the next series of Sittings. As the House is aware, provision has already been made for the House to' be recalled during an Adjournment, if the public interest so requires.

Mr. Greenwood

Has the right hon. Gentleman in mind a Debate dealing with war finance before the Adjournment, because widely expressed desires for such a Debate have come from many sides of the House?

Mr. Eden

I have it very much in mind, and I hope it will be possible to arrange for such a Debate.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

While welcoming the announcement of the Debate which is to take place on the subject of Admiral Darlan, may I ask whether the House will be assured that in the meantime His Majesty's Government are in no way committed by the proclamation made by Admiral Darlan that he is assuming responsibility as head of the Government of North Africa?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government were in no way consulted about that statement and do not consider themselves in any way bound by it.

Mr. Maxton

The Business for the first Sitting Day of our next series of Sittings includes three Measures, two of which are very important. One of them is the National Service Bill, which, I understand, brings boys under 18 into military service, and another is the Workmen's Compensation Bill. Are the Government assuming that by putting down this rather large programme these Bills are non-contentious?

Mr. Eden

I do not think the first item will take so long. The programme looks bigger on paper than in fact it is, but we will see how we get on. I hope, however, it will be possible to take these Measures on that day.

Mr. Tinker

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider extending the time on that Sitting Day, because the Workmen's Compensation Bill may take a little more time than he thinks it will take?

Mr. Eden

We may perhaps consider that through the usual channels.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Will my right hon. Friend say whether time will be found for the Motion relating to the manacling of prisoners of war in the name of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) and others?

[That this House, wishing to maintain and, uphold laws which all civilised men hold in common, urges His Majesty's Government to make a solemn declaration at the earliest moment that no German prisoners are kept in chains, and further declares that the British people do not wish to free the Germans from the stain of their outrage on British prisoners by being guilty of the same conduct themselves.]

Mr. Eden

My noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) did make the suggestion earlier that it is a matter that might well be dealt with on the third Sitting Day of our next series of Sittings, in the Secret Session. Personally I rather favour that.

Mr. Bellenger

The right, hon. Gentleman has announced to the House that the Sitting on the third day of our next series will be in secret. Many things are happening in public as was mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that it would be very inappropriate for Members to be under a pledge of secrecy on such a matter as this concerning not only this House but millions of our constituents outside? If he cannot agree to have the whole of the debate in public, is it not possible that we should be able to express some of our views in public?

Mr. Granville

Further to that point. In view of the statement made just now on the question of the official recognition of Admiral Darlan as Chief of State, while I recognise that it may be important from the military point of view to hold the Debate in secret, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that this House has the right to confirm or reject any arrangement made in connection with the official recognition of Admiral Darlan?

Mr. Eden

I dealt completely with that point when it was made, very opportunely, by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot).

Mr. Granville

In public?

Mr. Eden

I have just answered in public. As regards the future, what I had in mind was that in this Debate we should put Members of this House in possession of all the facts that are available to the Government, not only the political facts, but the military facts, so that they may see the whole thing. What may happen afterwards can always be considered, but I think the House will wish to have that information.

Mr. Shinwell

In the right hon. Gentleman's reply to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove he said that His Majesty's Government were not committed to Admiral Darlan's proclamation. Who is committed to it? Is it some other Government? Are we to understand that Admiral Darlan is himself responsible and no other Government associated with the United Nations?

Mr. Eden

So far as I know, it was a unilateral inspiration of Admiral Darlan himself.

Sir H. Williams

However much we may dislike Admiral Darlan's bad record, must we not be careful not to assume that we have the right to appoint the head of a foreign State?

Mr. Eden

I think my hon. Friend appreciates the difficulty of steering between Scylla and Charybdis. I think we have managed so far.

Mr. Pickthorn

Without wishing to ask for a pledge at this moment, and in the absence of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), may I ask whether there is a possibility of the Government granting time for discussion of the Motion which stands in his name and in the name of over 100 other Members, should he feel it proper to press for such a discussion?

[That this House regrets the recent tendency to discuss on the Adjournment matters for which time has been allotted by the Government and for which debate on specific Motions might have been appropriate; and in particular this House is of opinion that any report from the Public Accounts Committee should be debated on a specific Motion.]

Mr. Eden

If my hon. Friend would not mind waiting until the first Sitting of our next series of Sitting Days, I will give him an answer.

Mr. Higgs

Has not the time arrived when Ministers can refer to future Sittings of the House by days and dates rather than by means of the expression "first, second or third Sitting days"?

Mr. Eden

That' has been considered, and a decision against that view has been taken.

Miss Ward

May I ask for an assurance that the Government will make a statement about the manacling of prisoners of war before the House rises for the Adjournment? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it was a considerable time since the promise was given that an early statement would be made?

Mr. Eden

I am fully aware of the latter point. A statement certainly will be made before the House rises.