HC Deb 20 July 1944 vol 402 cc353-8
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the Business of the House for next week?

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

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Tuesday, 25th July—Supply (19th Allotted Day) Committee. A Debate will take place on the disposal of Government. surplus property. A White Paper dealing with the matter has been available for some time in the Vote Office. At the hour appointed, the Committee stage of all outstanding Supply Votes will be put from the Chair. Second Reading of the Validation of Wartime Leases Bill [Lords].

Wednesday, 26th July—Supply (20th Allotted Day) Report. A Debate will take place on the International Labour Office and, at the hour appointed, the Report stage of all outstanding Supply Votes will be put from the Chair.

Thursday, 27th July—Consideration of the Lords' Amendments to the Education Bill. Committee and remaining stages of the Validation of Wartime Leases Bill [Lords].

Friday, 28th July—Second Reading of the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Bill.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I make a statement now on the proposed date of the Summer Adjournment. If all urgent and essential business has been completed, we propose that the House should adjourn on Thursday, 3rd August until Tuesday, 26th September. I should, however, warn the House that it may be necessary for us to meet before that date and, if so, as hon. Members are aware, power already exists for Parliament to be recalled at very short notice if the public interest so requires.

I think it may also be convenient if I mention now that it is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to make a statement on the war situation on 2nd August, that is, the week after next, and this statement will be debatable if the House so desires. We thought an appropriate occasion for that would be the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Sir Percy Harris

In reference to the Recess, would it be possible to make arrangements, if occasion should arise, for Members, particularly those from bombed areas, to meet Ministers to discuss any developments or difficulties?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, I have no doubt that could be arranged. Even though the House in not in Session, His Majesty's Ministers are, of course, at the service of the House.

Captain Peter MacDonald

May I ask the Leader of the House, in view of the very great importance of to-day's Debate on the Colonial Empire, if he will consider having the Railway Bills which are to be considered to-day, postponed to another date? These Bills have already been before the House.

Mr. Eden

My hon. and gallant Friend will know that it is not a matter for me, but for the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Mr. Price

Can the Leader of the House say whether he will be able to find time for a Debate on India before we rise?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, I hope to do so, if that is possible, in the week after next.

Mr. Astor

May I ask the Leader of the House, with regard to keeping in touch with the Government on questions affecting bombed-out and reception areas during the Recess, whether it is the intention that the present Committee under the Home Secretary shall continue to meet at periodical intervals during the Recess? May I further put it to him that such a Committee, though extremely valuable and helpful, can never be an acceptable substitute for meetings of this House, when there are very urgent questions concerning our constituents coming up day by day? Could I, therefore, ask him whether, if this bombing and these problems continue, it might be possible to have a short Session every two or three weeks; or else whether, if the Committee which meets the Home Secretary makes representations, Mr. Speaker, that will be considered as a good reason for recalling the House to discuss such questions?

Mr. Eden

I think my hon. Friend can take it that it is the Government's desire to try to help hon. Members in this business, so far as they possibly can, and that it may be thought desirable that the Committee, over which my right hon. Friend presides, should meet from time to time during the Recess. If so, that is by no means excluded. As regards recalling the House, I think hon. Members can have confidence in the Government. If they think their responsibility calls for that action, they will take it, but I do not want to enter into that now.

Mr. Rhys Davies

On Wednesday next shall we be able to discuss the work of the International Labour Office, without being tied exclusively to the results of the recent Conference?

Mr. Eden

I think my hon. Friend's conclusion is clearly correct.

Mr. Bowles

Has the right hon. Gentleman made up his mind whether the Prime Minister's war statement is to be debated or not? May we be told that it will be taken on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill and that it will certainly be debatable?

Mr. Eden

That is the position. How much the House chooses to debate the statement is a matter for the House.

Earl Winterton

When we have this discussion on the Prime Minister's statement, supposing those vitally interested in the matter of flying bombs—some of our constituencies have been affected and constituents have suffered casualties—desire to take part in the Debate, and catch Mr. Speaker's eye, will they be permitted to do so in reference to that matter, or will the House go into Secret Session?

Mr. Eden

I would like a moment to consider that problem, but a meeting is to be held next week, on Tuesday or Thursday, and I think we might discuss the matter then, through the usual channels.

Mr. Shinwell

Regarding the date of the Adjournment, while everybody hopes that the position in London will improve, if it does not would it not be improper for this House to adjourn? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]. There seems to be some confusion, so I will put the point again. If the position, unfortunately, should worsen in London, as regards bombing, and if difficulties should arise about evacuation and the like, would it not be regarded as improper if hon. Members left this place for the provinces, without having an opportunity of discussing matters which are of vital concern to many of our people?

Mr. Eden

I think the position is quite clear. This Adjournment is the normal Parliamentary procedure at this time of the year, and I do not think we should vary our normal procedure, unless there is a special reason—which does not at present exist—for the summoning of Parliament. There will be opportunities for contact with the Ministers responsible, who will be carrying on their daily duties.

Mr. Shinwell

Then I beg to give notice that on the date when the Adjournment is moved, if circumstances justify it, I shall move an Amendment.

Mr. Hynd

Do the Government propose to give the House an early opportunity of discussing a recent statement on the constitution and future of the Court of International Justice?

Mr. Eden

I shall have to look into that.

Earl Winterton

I desire to raise a question, Mr. Speaker, affecting a matter of Order. I desire to put it to you to-day, or, if it is more convenient, to put it to you to-morrow, when I have submitted the point in writing. It is a question affecting the Privilege of this House in regard to the holding of conferences, or meetings, upstairs and how the question of secrecy would arise. If it is your wish, Mr. Speaker, I will submit the question to you and put it to-morrow. I desire to raise a further point of Order in connection with the same matter. I think it is an unusual, if not unprecedented, procedure, of which I make no complaint, that my right hon. Friend should have announced to the House a form of proceeding which is not provided for under the Rules of Order, and I would like to know whether it would be in Order to put a Private Notice Question to the Leader of the House to-morrow, regarding the procedure of these conferences or meetings, whatever one likes to call them, upstairs. In submitting this point of Order, I would rely upon the manner in which you, Mr. Speaker, and your predecessors in the Chair, have always allowed a minority in this House to endeavour to express their views. We realise that we are a small and unpopular minority in demanding a Debate on this matter, and we no longer persist in that, but we hope we may be permitted to have the opportunity of putting our views at a meeting upstairs, and we can only do that if we know what the procedure is to be.

Sir P. Harris

Is there any constitutional reason why Members should not meet Ministers in private conference? Has it not been the custom from time immemorial that they should have that right and that it can be stated from the Treasury Bench?

Mr. Speaker

I think it is better not to discuss the matter now, but if the Noble Lord, as he kindly suggests, will put the matter to me in writing I will do my best to give a Ruling on it to-morrow.

Earl Winterton

May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you will allow—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, really, are hon. Members whose constituents have been killed by flying bombs not allowed to ask questions in the House? Is that the situation? If so, I will give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment to-day. Will you allow me, Mr. Speaker, to submit a Private Notice Question to the Leader of the House to-morrow regarding the procedure to be followed upstairs, in view of the rather unprecedented situation, namely, that this has been stated by the Government as a new form of convenient procedure?

Mr. Speaker

I think the Noble Lord is quite entitled to submit such a Question to me. If he does so I should be glad to look into it.