HC Deb 04 July 1944 vol 401 cc996-8
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

I ask leave of the House to make a brief statement on Business. I think it would be for the convenience of the House that I should state now, that it is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to make a statement on Thursday on the flying bomb attack.

Sir H. Williams

May I ask my right hon. Friend why the statement is being delayed until Thursday? Is he aware that the whole Press over the week-end contained a promise of this statement, and that the profoundest dissatisfaction will be felt by those in the areas affected, at this want of disclosure of information, which cannot be on security grounds, because if a disclosure is made on Thursday it will be just as dangerous as one made to-day? Is it because it takes such a long time to write it out? Why cannot we he told something now?

Mr. Eden

I really do not accept my hon. Friend's interpretation of public opinion in this matter. The War Cabinet considered this matter very carefully last night, and we came to the conclusion that my right hon. Friend would be in a better position to make a full statement on Thursday than he is to-day. It is obvious to the House that many matters have to be weighed before a public statement on a matter of this kind can be made. It was agreed that a full statement should be made on Thursday. I ask the House to believe that, in the view of the Government, that is the best way to handle the matter.

Sir H. Williams

Can we have an assurance that the spate of misleading information, issued presumably by the Air Ministry—optimistic dope—will be terminated until we have that statement?

Mr. Eden

I do not know what my hon. Friend means by that, but I would ask him to believe that the Government have considered the position carefully, and, in deciding that Thursday was a better day than to-day to make a statement, we came to the conclusion not at all because we wished to withhold information, but because we can give more information on Thursday than we can to-day.

Mr. Thorne

Will the Prime Minister also make a statement about the capture of Minsk?

Mr. Eden

That event is, fortunately, already recorded.

Mr. Bellenger

Will this statement be made in Secret Session, as it may be that some hon. Members would like to put questions to the Prime Minister which, for security reasons, cannot be dealt with adequately in public?

Mr. Eden

The point that I was trying to make was that the statement is being made on Thursday, instead of to-day, in order to be able to make a fuller statement in public. It would be relatively easy to make a statement in Secret Session to-day. It may be that the House will wish to ask questions, or at some time to have a discussion on the matter. The Government do not exclude that. If there is to be a discussion, it will, for obvious reasons, have to take place in Secret Session. I suggest that we should first hear the Prime Minister's statement on Thursday.

Mr. Bowles

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Prime Minister to consider opening those big underground shelters, of which he is no doubt aware?

Mr. Eden

I could not go into that now. The matter has been dealt with before.

Mr. A. Edwards

In view of the statement, which was made recently, that the flying bomb was developed through facilities offered by Franco, will the Prime Minister make a statement on that, and, if that statement is proved correct, will he consider modifying the very flattering statement made by him about Franco some time ago?

Mr. Eden

I have no information about that: I have no evidence of that kind; but I have heard the report. I should like to speak about it separately.

Mr. Edgar Granville

What is to happen to the Questions on the Older Paper, to the Home Secretary, about sirens, shelters, and so on? Will they be dealt with by the Prime Minister on Thursday, and shall we be able to ask questions on them, or will they be dealt with by the Home Secretary?

Mr. Eden

Of course, it will be open to the House to ask questions on the Prime Minister's statement. When I was dealing with the question by my hon. friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) just now, I was dealing with the point that some Members may wish to put questions in Secret Session. I will consider the point that my hon. Friend has just made.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not possible that, through the use of the diplomatic bag, people in foreign countries may know more about the situation than people in this country?

Mr. Eden

That does not arise on this matter, but I can assure the hon. Member that it has been in my mind.