HC Deb 19 December 1944 vol 406 cc1618-21
49. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now able to make a further statement in regard to the situation in Greece.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, not at present.

Sir T. Moore

Can my right hon. Friend make such a statement, or does he hope to make such a statement, before we go away for Christmas?

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

In view of the very deep anxiety of Members of this House, and the public, with regard to the developing situation in Greece, would it not be desirable before the House rises for three weeks to make some statement on the matter?

The Prime Minister

I think if I were to make a statement there would be requests that there should be a Debate—naturally—otherwise people would not like it, and say they were only hearing one side. Therefore, what we have to consider is not a statement, but a Debate. We did have a Debate, if my memory serves me right, and a Division only a little while ago, and we could not really find time in the remaining three days for another Debate. Of course, for a Debate on a Vote of Censure, we could find Wednesday, and questions could be raised on that subject on the Debate on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House for the Recess which could be arranged through the usual channels and with the Chair. The Government are the servants of the House, and we should not propose to have a Debate, otherwise than by one or other of those two methods.

Mr. Greenwood

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is not a question of a Vote of Censure but, as it would appear to me, if I may say so with all respect, a quite legitimate demand for the elucidation of a developing and deteriorating situation?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the situation is deteriorating. I think it has greatly improved, but one would rather wait until a more suitable occasion occurs than have another Debate so soon after the full one which has already been held in this House.

Sir Percy Harris

Is the Prime Minister aware that the country is very disturbed about the situation in Greece and that it would like, before we adjourn for Christmas, the very latest information as to developments there, and preferably the cheering news of a satisfactory settlement?

Mr. Edgar Granville

May I ask the Prime Minister, if he is unable to give us a Debate in Government time this week, whether there is any reason why we should not discuss this matter on the Consolidated Fund Bill to-day, and, if we can, will the Foreign Secretary be here to answer for the Government?

The Prime Minister

I am advised that the Consolidated Fund Bill would not afford a convenient Parliamentary vehicle for a discussion on this subject. It would be extraordinarily limited and inconvenient. As to the very serious concern in the country, there is, of course, a sharp division of opinion in the country on the position not only in Greece but in other countries and that division naturally causes heart-searchings and sharp criticisms, but I do not think that this would be allayed by a Debate. Anyhow, I am at the service of the House, and if the House likes to use the machinery provided, we are entirely ready to discuss the matter.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the Prime Minister whether now, or before the end of the week, he could elucidate one point, as there appears to be some question emerging as to the establishment of a Regency in Greece? Would he be able to say whether the establishment of that Regency is being in any way frustrated or impeded by the attitude of King George?

The Prime Minister

I said just now, in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), that I had no further statement to make at present on Greece, and that still holds.

Sir Richard Acland

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Are we not being asked in the Consolidated Fund Bill to raise money for the purpose of war, and are we not therefore entitled to ask for what purpose the money is being spent, and challenge the spending of it?

Mr. Speaker

It happens that this is a very limited Consolidated Fund Bill. It relates only to Jamaica—a grant of £700,000—and to a grant of £9,750, mainly for Irish clubs in London.

Mr. A. Bevan

Is it not apparent from recent events that the Division which occurred in the House of Commons on this matter a few days ago, does not, in fact, represent the division of opinion in the country any more than the Division in the House of Commons which preceded the promotion of the Prime Minister to his present office represented the feelings of the country? Is it not therefore desirable that the House of Commons should try to influence events in Greece before we rise for the Christmas Recess, particularly in view of the fact that a very large body of opinion associated with His Majesty's Government is committed to the principle of an armistice?

The Prime Minister

I do not intend to discuss the Greek issue at the moment. As far as the opinion of the country is concerned, of course, anybody can always say what the opinion of the country is, but before others of a different opinion accept that view, some other processes have usually to be gone through in the country. As far as the Division in the House the other day was concerned, it is true that it may not fully represent the opinion of the House, because only a two-line Whip was sent out summoning Members.

Mr. Gallacher

I want to ask the Prime Minister if it would not be wise to advise that all shooting should stop in Greece and that a debate should take place, not here but in Athens, to sort out these things?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that we cannot always stop shooting by saying we would like to stop it.

Mr. Granville

On the point of Order raised by the hon. Baronet, is there any reason why we should not discuss the question of whether the Prime Minister should or should not make a statement on Greece, on the Motion for the Adjournment?

Mr. Speaker

The ingenuity of hon. Members often enables them to discuss matters like that. It might be possible, I think.