HC Deb 08 September 1942 vol 383 cc110-3

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn" [Captain McEwen].

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can make any announcement, as the circumstances obviously necessitate, as to what the Business will be on the next Sitting Day?

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Stafford Cripps)

I have not had time to consider the matter through the usual channels, but I shall do so, and obviously, until I have had time to consider it, I cannot make any announcement.

Earl Winterton

Will my right hon. and learned Friend be good enough to consider the appeal which has been made in some quarters that there should be a discussion on the Prime Minister's statement with regard to India?

Sir S. Cripps


Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

I had no intention of speaking on this occasion, but as there is an opportunity which may not occur on the third Sitting Day, when there are likely to be very many who desire to speak, I will take the opportunity of raising a few points on the question of the pay of the Armed Forces. I shall not be able to do so as effectively—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)

I am afraid that the Rule on anticipation would be applicable to that discussion, and the subject cannot therefore be discussed now.

Miss Rathbone

Can you tell me whether it is possible to discuss, without reference to, that Debate, some of the methods that I think need changing in the present system of the remuneration of the Armed Forces? I would like to discuss, for example, how far able and poor men are prevented from applying for commissions because of low pay, high messing bills and high charges for uniform and so on, I would like to discuss how far the Jewish Army is being prevented from being recruited in Palestine because there are no separation allowances for dependants other than wives and because the rate of separation allowances is quite inadequate. Is it not possible on the Adjournment to discuss such problems?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that the second problem would be in Order as not being down for discussion on the Third Sitting Day but the first part of the hon. Lady's remarks would definitely be out of Order on the ground of anticipation.

Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)

Can the Lord Privy Seal say on what grounds he was led to arrange for two days to be devoted to this Debate, in view of the fact that, after we had heard the speech of the Prime Minister, who did not sit long enough to listen to the end of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, the latter spoke to an almost empty House? There were four Members on the other side and four on duty on the Front Bench, and six on this side and two on duty on the Front Bench. It would seem that we are reducing Parliamentary procedure to a complete farce, if we are to have Debates arranged which we are led to believe will be important Debates on the developments of the war. We are treating the Prime Minister, with these frequent exhibitions, as a kind of prima donna. Did we come here to discuss the progress of the war or not? About 300 Members of Parliament are in the precincts of this House, and yet not more than 20 were willing to stay even to hear a second speech. Was it necessary to devote two days to this subject and ask Members to remain in town an extra day this week?

Sir S. Cripps

The matter was arranged through the ordinary channels, and the expectation was that a sufficient number of Members would be interested in the matter to take their turn in the Debate for two days. I am as surprised as my hon. Friend that Members have not wished to speak upon the subject matter. Apparently the Prime Minister's speech leaves nothing for discussion, but I am bound to say that it does cause me, as Leader of the House, very seriously to think when Members cannot wait even, as my hon. Friend said, to hear the first two leading speeches in the Debate. I think it is a most unfortunate thing that such disrespect should be paid to the Leader of the Opposition or that Members should go out in the middle of the Prime Minister's speech, as a number of Members did. I do not think that we can conduct our proceedings here with the dignity and the weight with which we should conduct them unless Members are prepared to pay greater attention to their duties in this House, which are just as great as the duties of men in the trenches at the front.

Mr. A. Edwards

Further to that, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he has been led to suppose from what is so frequently referred to in this House as "the usual channels" that there would be a House which really wanted two days' Debate? I have never seen such a disgraceful thing happen as has happened here to-day. The whole Press was full of statements last week that the House was on its toes, and it seems that the Government have been led to suppose that two days must be devoted to the Debate, necessitating, thereby, a change in our programme. Does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that this sort of thing is inviting the suspension of Parliamentary Privilege if hundreds of Members treat the House with the disrespect that they have shown to-day?

Sir S. Cripps

I have already stated my views upon the attendances of Members of the House, which during the last series of sittings were very poor indeed, much to my regret. If I may answer the Noble Lord opposite now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will proceed with the Business of the Vote of Credit on our next Sitting Day.

Earl Winterton

Are we to have a chance of debating the Prime Minister's statement?

Sir S. Cripps

I will see if consideration can be given to that, but arrangements cannot be made for it to be done on our next Sitting Day. The Chancellor, instead of making his statement on the last of our series of Sitting Days this week, will make a statement on our next Sitting Day and the Debate on the financial side of this Vote of Credit can only proceed then.

Miss Rathbone

Are we to understand that the Debate on our next Sitting Day will not be on the conduct of the war but on the Chancellor's statement? I think that what has really happened is that a good many Members who want to speak on our next Sitting Day want time to think over the Prime Minister's statement first. There will be considerable dismay when they will find that they have lost their chance.

Sir S. Cripps

I am afraid that if Members cannot attend in the House, they must lose their opportunity of speaking. It is the intention to proceed with the financial side of the Vote of Credit on our next Sitting Day.

Miss Rathbone

I think that the probable explanation is that a great many Members want to speak on the question of Army pay and allowances, and knowing that it would not be possible for them to speak twice, they have reserved themselves for that. Cannot the Business be so adjusted that the part of the day which is left free, to-day or our next Sitting Day, can be used to extend the Debate on Army pay and allowances?

Sir S. Cripps

I will consider that in association with the other matters which have been suggested to me. I hope to announce on our next Sitting Day how the time will be used.

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