HC Deb 10 December 1942 vol 385 cc1712-5
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

Will the Leader of the House state the forthcoming business?

Mr. Eden

Before I go into the Business in detail, I must make one reference to the Workmen's Compensation Bill, which was brought forward as an agreed Measure after consultation with those concerned. I regret that circumstances arose yesterday which made it impossible for us to complete the Bill. If as I hope this difficulty can be overcome, we will arrange for the remaining stages of the Bill to be taken as the first Order on the next Sitting Day, on the understanding that it will not take more than one hour of our time. I would remind the House that the Bill has still to be considered in another place. I felt it necessary to make this proposal in view of the importance of the matter raised by the Prayer against Defence Regulation 33B and the general desire in all parts of the House that that Debate should be begun at an early hour. Therefore, subject to what I have said, the first Sitting Day will be available for a Debate on the Prayer relating to Defence Regulation 33B which stands on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) and others.

On the second Sitting Day we shall take the Committee and remaining stages of the Supreme Court (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords]. Afterwards the Adjournment of the House will be moved, and there will be an opportunity for a Debate on War Finance and Borrowing Policy.

The Motion for the Christmas Adjournment will be taken on the third Sitting Day. '

Mr. Stokes

Is it proposed at an early date to give the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production an opportunity to tell us something about his recent visit to the United States?

Mr. Eden

There may be an opportunity for that later on, but not in the next series of Sittings.

Mr. Pickthorn

Has my right hon. Friend considered the promise he made last week to look into the possibility of giving time for a discussion of the Motion standing in the name of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton)?

[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

I have looked into that, but I am sorry that the Government are not in a position to afford time for consideration of this Motion. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who put their names to this Motion that their expression of opinion has been noted by the Government. We would like to follow this practice whenever we can, but the Government would like a little latitude in the actual application of it.

Mr. A. Bevan

There is on the Order Paper a Motion in the name of many hon. Members concerning our relations with Admiral Darlan.

[That this House is of the opinion that our relations with Admiral Darlan and his kind are inconsistent with the ideals for which we entered and are fighting this war: furthermore, that these relations, if persisted in, will undermine the faith in us among our friends in the oppressed and invaded nations and impair the military, social and political prospects of the final and complete triumph of the cause of the United Nations.]

The Government have decided that this matter shall be taken in Secret Session to-day, and to that I take no exception. If the Government wish to have it, they must have it. But will the Government consider, before we rise for the Christmas Recess, some way in which the House may put on record its attitude towards this matter, so as to reassure opinion in the country, which is very uneasy about the whole situation? Would it not be undesirable that we should part for a period without the House giving some leadership and reassurance to the country? Although the right hon. Gentleman may not like the terms of the Motion, will he consider some instrument by which our demand can be given effect to?

Mr. Eden

I would remark that the public position in respect to this matter is already governed, and remains governed, by the statement made by the President of the United States and by the statement I have made in this House. I could not therefore possibly give any undertaking that any statement of that kind will be made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

Mr. Bevan

Hon. Members who now support the right hon. Gentleman did so before. It is now clear, however, that we were right and that public opinion is seriously disturbed. While not desiring to say anything which may injure our relations with any other nations, I would point out that public opinion in this country is led by Parliament and by nobody else. Therefore, Parliament should have an opportunity of stating its views on this matter, for the reassurance of the country.

Mr. Eden

I think that the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware of the origin of the Secret Session, the purpose of which' is to give hon. Members the maximum information in our power.

Earl Winterton

Will my right hon. Friend clear up what seems to be a constitutional point of magnitude? He states that, the House must rest satisfied with the statements made by him and the President of the United States. Whatever views one holds on this question, surely the House has a perfect right, if it so desires, to debate in public any action of high policy taken by His Majesty's Government, whether that policy is acquiesced in or initiated by the Allies or not.

Mr. Eden

I entirely agree with my Noble Friend, but with all respect I do not think I used the words which he has put into my mouth. The expression which I gave was only an expression of the Government's opinion. Of course, the House has all the opportunities and the scope open to it in our normal procedure.

Sir Percy Harris

Would it not be reasonable to wait until we have heard the Prime Minister's statement? If we are not satisfied, we can then press the matter further.

Dr. Haden Guest

In view of the important statement made yesterday by the Lord Privy Seal in another place on relief measures for Europe, will the House have a reasonably early opportunity of discussing this matter, especially the question of the method of Allied control of relief measures and the co-ordination of that Allied control?

Mr. Eden

I would like to consider that. The hon. Member will recall that I dealt with that to some extent, but I would like to bear that consideration in mind.