HC Deb 21 October 1942 vol 383 cc1975-8
Mr. Clement Davies

May I ask the Leader of the House whether it is the intention of the Government immediately to make a statement to the House with regard to the sinkings of and damage done to German submarines? I ask that in view of the fact that the Government have persistently and consistently refused that information to the House on the ground that it was against the public interest to disclose it, and yet in the evening newspapers yesterday there was a statement on the subject made by the First Lord of the Admiralty to the public in Caxton Hall. How long is this House going to be treated in this way?

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Stafford Cripps)

It is not the intention of the Government to make any further statement on the war during the present series of Sittings, but at a later date some statement may probably be made. With regard to the speech to which the hon. and learned Member has referred, I am afraid that I have not had time to read what my right hon. Friend said, but I will draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the point which the hon. and learned Member has brought forward.

Mr. Stokes

In connection with that point, may I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that on 10th May and on 6th June this year I put Questions on this very point to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and they were not answered because it was said to be not in the national interest to reply?

Sir John Wardlaw-Milne

On the question of Business, I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether the Government will reconsider the information which was given yesterday regarding the chaining of prisoners. I understand that on the next Sitting Day we are to consider a Motion for the temporary Adjournment of the House for a period, and I think it is very desirable that the Government should reconsider their decision before the House adjourns. One can thoroughly understand the natural reason which prompted their decision, but we cannot compete in brutality with Germany, and I think the whole country realises that the Government have made a mistake.

Hon. Members


Sir S. Cripps

I very much regret that the hon. Member should have put this Question—[Interruption]. I stated in the House yesterday that, owing to the state of this affair at the present moment, it was undesirable that there should be any discussion upon it until the Government had considered their point of view.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

Is not the Leader of the House aware that it is because I think the country and the House do not agree with the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No," and "You are wrong."]

Mr. Maxton

On this issue, does the Leader of the House recollect that the Prime Minister asked us not to raise the matter or to discuss it, as the position was temporary, and that the House absolutely accepted that suggestion, which was right and proper for three days or so; but does the Leader of the House think it would not be altogether wrong if we left the country to believe for three weeks that there is no antagonism to this act? Before we go, can we not have a statement from that Box from the Prime Minister himself about this position, because there is very strong feeling against it in the House and in the country?

Sir S. Cripps

The answer is that the circumstances because of which the Prime Minister stated it was advisable not to make any further statement still persist. The Prime Minister has promised the House that as soon as these circumstances alter he will make a statement to the House.

Mr. Cocks

Is it not desirable, at a moment when delicate negotiations are going on, that no impression should be given in this House that we are showing any weakness in the matter?

Sir S. Cripps

It is because it is undesirable that any view should be canvassed in this House that the Prime Minister made the statement to which I have referred.

Mr. Pickthorn

On Business generally, and with apologies to the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), may I ask the Leader of the House when it is proposed to take the Second Report of the Select Committee on the Disposal and Custody of Documents?

Sir S. Cripps

We hope that the House will agree to consider the report of the Select Committee on the next Sitting Day. After we have disposed of the Consolidated Fund Bill, the Motion for approval will be moved by another member of the Committee, in the re- gretted absence, owing to indisposition, of the Chairman of Ways and Means,

Mr. Gallacher

I want to ask the Leader of the House a very special question. Will he take the real soldiers out of chains and put the fake soldier Hess into chains?

Mr. Granville

If we are fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye upon the Adjournment Debate, and we raise the question of U-Boat sinkings, will the First Lord of the Admiralty be in his place during that Debate?

Sir S. Cripps

If on the Adjournment some question is raised which requires the presence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will come to the House, as he always does.

Mr. Buchanan

I understood the Leader of the House to say, in reply to the question by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), that the Motion was being taken on the next Sitting Day. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that that day is an Adjournment day and is usually reserved for private Members? Will the Motion be debatable, and are arrangements likely to be made through the usual channels to see that it does not occupy too much time?

Sir S. Cripps

I understand that the matter has been raised through the usual channels and that it is unlikely to take any material time. Otherwise we should certainly not have asked the House to take it on that day.

Mr. Stokes

Is it desirable that the public should be left in a state of indecision in regard to the chaining of prisoners? [Interruption.] It is most misleading.