HC Deb 09 February 1943 vol 386 cc1167-70
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House when the eagerly awaited statement of the Prime Minister will be made?

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

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make a statement on the War Situation on the third Sitting Day. The statement will be made on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House and there will be an opportunity for a debate to take place, if the House so desires. If there is time, we shall proceed that day with the consideration of the Civil Supplementary Estimates already announced.

Mr. Greenwood

Might I put this point to the Leader of the House? It has happened before that, after an important statement by the Prime. Minister, the Debate peters out, not from lack of interest but because many Members have not had time to consider the statement in all its implications. If the House should not feel on the third Sitting Day that it wishes to pursue the statement, will a further day be given to continue the discussion?

Mr. Eden

That can certainly be considered, but I have always thought, when there was not a Debate after a statement by the Prime Minister, that it was merely, a reflection of the universal satisfaction.

Mr. Stokes

Will the Leader of the House arrange to suspend the Rule on the third Sitting Day because, to my own knowledge, quite a number of Members wish to speak; or can he arrange for an extra day this week so that consideration of the Prime Minister's statement might not be suspended over the week-end?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Gentleman's proposition is in complete conflict with that made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and I could not accede to it. I can tell the House, as it may be convenient to make another announcement, that next week we propose to allot the three Sitting Days to a Debate upon the report of Sir William Beveridge on Social Insurance and Allied Services.

Mr. Granville

If there are a number of speakers who wish to speak on the Prime Minister's statement will such an opportunity be given?

Mr. Eden

I cannot give such an undertaking. I think we must follow our usual practice and see how we get on.

Mr. Stokes

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why it is necessary to defer this statement until the third Sitting Day? Why cannot it be made To-morrow and debated To-morrow and Thursday?

Mr. Eden

I think the hon. Member is most unreasonable. My right hon. Friend has just returned from a journey not only of an important but obviously of a physically exhausting character. We are all pleased to see him in such good health. I think it is only ordinary courtesy to allow him a few hours to prepare his statement.

Earl Winterton

Arising out of the question put by my right hon. Friend beside me, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that others besides my right hon. Friend think that this would be a convenient method both for the Government, the Prime Minister and Members of the House? If it is not possible to effect it on this occasion would he allow consultations to take place in the usual way, to see whether we cannot avoid the calamitous events which occurred on a previous occasion?

Mr. Eden

Certainly, I think there is a good deal to be said for the suggestion. I am ready that it should be examined.

Sir Douglas Hacking

May I ask a question on to-day's Business? In view of the very large number of Members who desire to take part in the Debate on the Second Reading of the Catering Bill will my right hon. Friend consider either giving a second day for the Second Reading discussion or, alternatively, suspending the Standing Orders?

Mr. Eden

I hope my right hon. Friend will not press either of those requests. We came to an arrangement last autumn as regards the hours of the Sittings of the House, and we have adhered to it absolutely since. If we start to make exceptions, I do not know where we shall get to. There will be many other opportunities for debating this Bill both on the Committee stage and on Third Reading. Therefore I cannot give an extra day in view of the Business we have to get through. There will be plenty of opportunities for Members to exercise their eloquence on this Bill.

Sir D. Hacking

In view of the fact that there are over 40 Members who wish to take part in this Debate, would my right hon. Friend not reconsider that decision?

Mr. Eden

My right hon. Friend will realise my difficulty. If I make an exception now on this Bill, there is no reason why I should not make a series of future exceptions. Hon. Members will have plenty of opportunity on the Committee stage. As I understand the position, a great deal of the opposition is on Committee points.

Mr. Shin well

Will my right hon. Friend convey to Government supporters behind him the desire of the Government to avoid, at any cost, party controversy?

Sir John Mellor

Why is there such extraordinary haste to get the Second Reading of this Bill without adequate discussion?

Viscountess Astor

Is it not true that this Bill is long overdue, and is it not true that the same organisation that was against it 22 years ago is still against it?

Mr. Buchanan

With regard to the Beveridge Report Debate in the next series of Sittings, is there to be any Government Motion, or are we to discuss it merely on the Adjournment?

Mr. Eden

I hope to be in a position to announce the position in respect of that on the third Sitting Day of the present series of Sittings, when I announce the Business for the next series of Sittings.

Mr. Bellenger

As I understand that there may be another Motion on the Order Paper is it the intention of the Government to give any indication during the Debate of their views on that Report?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps the hon. Member will let me make my ordinary Business statement on the Third Sitting Day. All I wished to do to-day was to give advance notice. I can say that the Debate will not take place on the Adjournment.

Major Petherick

Are we to take it that in the case of any Parliamentary Bill in future only one day will be given to its discussion on Second Reading, however important it may be, whereas a Motion about the Beveridge Report will have three days allotted to it?

Mr. Eden

I do not think that I should by any means lay that down as a definite rule, but obviously opportunities for discussion of this Bill will become considerable, not only in Committee but on Third Reading.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

As the House will probably think it necessary to regard the Beveridge Report in its proper setting, would it be possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement early in the proceedings to show the commitments of the country after the war, and the possible national income, or is it possible to have a White Paper issued before the Debate takes place?

Mr. Eden

My hon. Friend's first point was met in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer early last week. I do not wish to say anything more about this Debate until I announce Business.

Sir J. Mellor

As the right hon. Gentleman has said that there will be adequate opportunity for further discussion of the Catering Bill on the Committee stage, will he give an undertaking to afford all the time which the opposition requires on the Committee stage?

Mr. Eden

I do not think that any Government has ever been asked to give that pledge. I can assure the hon. Member that of course we shall give fair and reasonable time.