HC Deb 13 July 1944 vol 401 cc1875-8
47. Earl Winterton

asked the Prime Minister if he intends to make another statement in regard to the progress made in dealing with the flying bomb.

48. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any further information to give the House on counter-measures against the flying bomb.

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

Not at present.

Earl Winterton

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that a number of us, without wishing to exaggerate the seriousness of this matter, feel that this House should be given an opportunity of exercising its functions, in Secret Session or otherwise, in order to discuss a matter of great importance, such as the provision made for dealing with these bombs and, above all, the adequacy of the A.A. High Command and the Cabinet Committee dealing with the matter?

Mr. Attlee

I am sure that if representations are made that a discussion in Secret Session is desired, the Government will be willing to meet that desire.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not very desirable that those who are suffering from the effects of the flying bombs and who are not adequately protected against them, because of the absence of prevision, and in spite of the optimistic assurances given by the Government frequently, should have a little more information from the Government as to the steps that are being taken, within the limits of security, in order to offset their effect, particularly in relation to the anti-aircraft position?

Mr. Attlee

I do not accept the suggestions made, and I think they are made without adequate knowledge. At the present moment the Prime Minister does not see that he can usefully add anything to what he has said already in public Debate.

Sir A. Southby

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that those who live in the affected areas are deeply concerned about this matter, and that though they realise that a statement cannot be made in Public Session, there is a strong demand that there should be a Secret Session where all these points could be discussed; and, further, that the people in those areas are not satisfied that all has been done that could have been done to meet the case or that all is being done now that is necessary?

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the prevision shown by the Government, especially in the raid on Peenemunde, reflects the greatest credit on all concerned and——

Earl Winterton rose


Mr. Speaker

Hon. Members must not interrupt.

Mr. Thomas

—that those who reside in London fully realise the difficulties of dealing with this weapon?

Mr. Edgar Granville

May I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should reconsider his answer? Would it not be the best way to dispel the criticism that the Government were not prepared and were caught napping that they should give an opportunity so that they can state their case, either in public or in Secret Session?

Mr. Attlee

I think that anybody who listened to or who read the speech of the Prime Minister would realise that the Government were not caught napping. I understood from the discussion in the House that there was not complete agreement in the House as to the desirability or undesirability of having a Secret Session, but, as I say, the Government will consider any representations on that matter.

Earl Winterton

May I ask my right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] I desire to raise a point of Order. I desire to ask whether I should be in Order in asking this question? The point is not whether we want to criticise the Prime Minister or not. The point is that we want to have an opportunity of expressing our views on this matter, and the fact that the Prime Minister has made a statement does not alter the point. We are Members of the House of Commons and the Government must have regard to that fact.

Mr. Petherick

May I ask a question which will not do any harm at all? Will the right hon. Gentleman give attention to the following point, which may be a small one, but may have the effect of saving some lives? Will instructions be issued by the Service Departments to despatch riders and others to observe the law in relation to the cut-out? These people sometimes make such a din when going through the streets that when a flying bomb is coming people do not hear it and have not time to take cover.

Mr. Attlee

I will see that the point is brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned.

Mr. Shinwell

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, if it is undesirable, or if you indicate that it may be undesirable, to press this matter in Public Session, and if we are to be precluded from having a discussion or a statement in Secret Session, indicating what——

Mr. Attlee

Perhaps I might remind the hon. Member that I said the Government were perfectly willing to accept the will of the House. I do not think that an expression of opinion coming from some hon. Members necessarily represents the will of the House.

Mr. Shinwell

That is precisely my point. If you, Sir, say that it is undesirable to press this matter in Public Session and, because there is not a universal desire for a Secret Session and representations come only from a few hon. Members, the Government are not prepared to have a statement made in Secret Session, will you, Sir, indicate to a Private Member what steps are at his disposal in order to ventilate any grievances he has on this subject?

Mr. Speaker

It has nothing to do with me whether the House has a statement or whether the House wants one or not.

Captain Cunningham-Raid

In view of the fact that I had already given notice to your office, Mr. Speaker, that I am raising this matter on the Adjournment next Thursday, would it not be possible, by leave of the House, to prolong that particular Adjournment discussion?