HC Deb 07 July 1944 vol 401 cc1429-32
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

The suggestion made by the Prime Minister yesterday that my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Air, and other Ministers who are most concerned, should meet Members of the House whose constituencies are directly affected by the flying-bomb attacks, so that hon. Members can bring to their notice any suggestions or any criticisms, seems, so far as I have been able to make soundings, to meet with pretty general approval in the House. I am glad to be able to tell the House that the Government have decided to adopt that suggestion, and the Home Secretary has arranged for the meeting to take place on Tuesday next. Hon. Members will be notified of the time and place in due course.

Mr. Tinker

May I suggest that, after we have met together, if satisfaction is not given and there is a necessity for a Debate, that such Debate should be in Secret Session?

Mr. Eden

That is anticipating a state of affairs which I hope will not arise; but I quite agree that this meeting does not, of course, preclude the right of Members to ask for a Debate afterwards, if they so desire. But I think it best that we should start with this meeting.

Sir Herbert Williams

The Prime Minister made another suggestion, if I recollect aright: namely, that there should be one particular Minister detailed, to be at the disposal of Members with regard to suggestions, perhaps more on civil aspects than on defence aspects. Has my right hon. Friend any statement to make with regard to the other proposal?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised that point. I understand that the Home Secretary is dealing with the point he has in mind, and that he is appointing his Parliamentary Secretary for that purpose. But I would like my right hon. Friend to confirm that himself.

Sir H. Williams

Which Parliamentary Secretary—on the Home Office side, or on the Home Security side?

Mr. Eden

On the Home Security side.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

Would it not be wise for my right hon. Friend to say—because it is not quite clear from his statement—whether it is intended to hold regular meetings on the matter for the time being? I say that because, personally, I should be sorry to have a Debate in Secret Session, since all the good that the Prime Minister's statement did yesterday would then be undone. It would create alarm here and misrepresentation in enemy countries.

Mr. Eden

I quite agree with my right hon. Friend. We do not at all exclude this becoming a regular practice, while we are being so treated.

Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

May Members who live in London attend this meeting, as well as the Members for London constituencies?

Mr. Eden

We are not trying to exclude Members. Obviously, one would not wish to do that. But it is primarily a meeting for those Members whose constituencies are concerned.

Mr. Greenwood

I hope that this will not become a new House of Commons practice; but there are Members representing reception areas, who have their problems, and I think that they ought to be allowed to go to the meeting, and put their problems to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Eden

We have taken the precaution of taking the largest room available.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether these meetings will be entirely private and confidential, or whether any statement will be issued on the matters discussed?

Mr. Eden

The meeting will be entirely private and confidential, and there will be an attendance of all the Ministers concerned, so that Members may put any questions they wish.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser

I would like to follow the question of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), by asking which particular Minister should be approached with a view to ascertaining whether Parliamentary Questions should be put dawn or not. There are, sometimes questions which a Member may feel are of great public interest, or which may contribute something, but he hesitates to put them down in case there should be some security angle involved of which he cannot be aware.

Mr. Eden

I should imagine that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would be the final adviser on those matters. I should like to consult him on the point. I will communicate with my hon. and gallant Friend.

Mr. Buchanan

Will there be a public announcement stating which Minister is being appointed to deal with this matter, so that all Members of the House may be able to communicate with him?

Mr. Eden

This is quite an informal arrangement, to facilitate smooth working.

Mr. Buchanan

I do not want to attend the meeting, and I think that it should be confined to Members for the London area or for reception areas, who have their own problems. I have no such problems. But we who have connections with London trade union offices want to have some communication with them, and we 'may wish to communicate with the person who is appointed.

Mr. Eden

The hon. Member may take it that it will be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security.

Captain Plugge

On the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), may I say that I put down on the Order Paper some eight Questions, which were turned down on security grounds. The Parliamentary Secretary, who has been specially appointed by the Minister of Home Security to deal with this matter, will be concerned specifically with protection measures. Can hon. Members then approach the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, who is chairman of the special committee on countermeasures, with any question which they may wish to put on scientific methods for combating the flying bomb on original lines?

Mr. Eden

I think that hon. Members can very well talk to my hon. Friend. I hope that all Members on this Front Bench are accessible.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I understand that the meeting on Tuesday is intended to be a meeting of those whose constituencies are affected by the enemy at present. Some of us are connected with reception areas. It seems to me that that is a matter for the Minister of Health. Would it be possible, if the occasion arises, for us to have a similar meeting with the Minister of Health, and not' attend on Tuesday?

Mr. Eden

The Minister of Health will be present on Tuesday, with his colleagues. I suggest that we should have this meeting on Tuesday, and then attempt to decide if separate meetings are necessary.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

I take it that the meeting on Tuesday is really intended to cover as much ground as possible, and to devise the best means by which representations from affected areas can be brought to the Government's notice, and that there can be either another sitting of this same meeting, or separate meetings with one of the Ministers concerned?

Mr. Eden

I accept all that.

Major C. S. Taylor

I take it that that meeting is not confined to London Members, because other constituencies in Southern England are definitely affected?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I thought that I had made it clear that it was to be a meeting of representatives of constituencies which are affected.

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