HC Deb 01 March 1944 vol 397 cc1425-7
Mr. Hammersley

May I put a question to the Leader of the House on Business, Mr. Speaker? I wish to ask whether he will provide facilities during the Debate on the Army Estimates, for the consideration in Secret Session of the question of British tanks.

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. Subject, of course, to the Rules of the House permitting it, and subject to Mr. Speaker calling upon any hon. Members interested in the question, the Government will be prepared to make any arrangements necessary and to reply to the Debate, which would, as my hon. Friend knows, have to take place in Secret Session.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether ample opportunity will be given for raising matters concerning the Army before the Debate on tanks is taken?

Mr. Eden

That may be so, but that matter is in your hands, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Buchanan

Is it not a fact that a Debate on Army Estimates at any time, but particularly in war-time and with the restricted time available, must cover an extremely wide field? If it is proposed on the next Sitting Day to set aside time for a Debate on tanks, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is another subject which many hon. Members regard as very important, namely, pay and allowances, and also other general questions? Is it fair to the House to pick out the question of tanks for a Debate when it is not in reality a War Office matter so much as a matter of war strategy, and ought not to be confused with the ordinary Army Estimates?

Mr. Eden

I do not think I can accept what the hon. Gentleman says. It is no part of my intention to interfere with the Debate on the Motion which, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, comes first. If it can be arranged for this other matter to come up, it can only be at a later stage.

Mr. J. J. Lawson

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman, if he is not aware of it already, that this question of the tanks is no new one. It has been before the House previously; but if it is so important as to demand a Secret Session, would it not be better to arrange a separate day for it instead, of taking it on the Army Estimates, which come up only once a year?

Mr. Buchanan

May I also point out that the question of tanks concerns not merely the War Office but the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Production, and other Departments? Is it fair to confine a Debate on tanks to the War Office?

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the opportunities for discussing matters connected with the Army are not frequent, and the question of tanks is entirely by itself? Hon. Members have asked questions on the subject of tanks many times, and is it not obviously desirable that one whole day should be given to the discussion of the subject of tanks by itself?

Major C. S. Taylor

On that same point, may I say that a large number of hon. Members want to raise other matters than tanks on the Army Estimates. It is the only day that hon. Members have got to raise various points. There is also the Amendment on Army Pay and Allowances. Is it fair that we should have to discuss the question of tanks at a very late hour? As it is such an important matter, could we not have an extra day?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Does the right hon. Gentleman think there is any real urgency that a discussion should take place on tanks at this point of time? Surely nothing which happened in such a Debate could possibly affect the situation for some months to come?

Mr. Eden

I have tried, in this matter, to meet what I thought was the wish of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] My hon. Friend the Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley) drew the second place in the Ballot, and all that can happen is that, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, then the matter must be discussed in Secret Session. On that account, I tried to make these arrangements, but, as I have said, whether the matter comes up or not, depends on whether my hon. Friend catches your eye.

Mr. Stokes

Does the Leader of the House appreciate, on the question of tanks, that the whole matter would be settled if the Government would agree to a proper inquiry which the Prime Minister has refused?

Mr. Eden

I am not optimistic enough to believe that anything would satisfy my hon. Friend.

Mr. Granville

May I ask the Leader of the House how far he hopes to get with this miscellaneous list of Business on the Order Paper, and if he expects there will be a discussion on the Supplementary Estimate for the Foreign Office?

Mr. Eden

As regards the last part of the question, I cannot say what the scope of the discussion will be. The hon. Gentleman will observe that is it not very wide. As far as the first part is concerned, we hope to get as far as we can.

Mr. Maxton

Does that include the Second Reading of the India (Attachment of States) Bill [Lords] because it seems to me that that Bill should not go through the House without having some attention from hon. Members? I have come here with a pocketful of cablegrams about this matter. Would the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that if that Bill is not reached at a reasonable time, it will not be pursued to-day?

Mr. Eden

I certainly did hope that we would reach the Bill at a reasonably early hour. If we do not, I will consider whether we should take it or not.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

If we do not reach it before the normal hour for the rising of the House, it will not be taken afterwards?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, I think I can give hat assurance.