HC Deb 23 March 1944 vol 398 cc1050-3
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the Business for the next series of Sittings?

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

The Business for the next series of Sitting Days will be as follows:

First and Second Sitting Days—Further progress will be made in Committee on the Education Bill.

Third Sitting Day—Committee stage of the Pensions (Increase) Bill. If it is agreeable to the House we would also like to take the concluding stages on the same day.

Fourth Sitting Day—Committee and remaining stages of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill, and remaining stages of the Pensions (Increase) Bill, if not previously disposed of.

On the Third Sitting Day it will be necessary to go into Secret Session, in order to consider a Motion relating to the Sittings of the House.

Earl Winterton

Will arrangements be made for a Debate, which has been asked for, on Imperial relationships, with special reference to the speeches of the right hon. Gentlemen the Prime Ministers of Australia and South Africa; and, if it is not possible to give a day before Easter, will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility, in view of the number of Members who wish to take part, of giving two days after Easter, on the understanding that this Debate was asked for by a number of Members in all parts of the House, not through the usual channels?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I had set aside a day before Easter, which I had hoped would have been convenient, but now we are a little behind with legislation, and I should find it difficult to do that. It would help me very much if I could arrange it after Easter, at as early a date as possible, and I will consider, on the representations which I get, whether a second day is necessary or not. If there is a general demand, I will try to meet it.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my right hon. Friend understand that there is a general demand, which has been expressed over and over again? Will he now take it from several hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that there is a demand for a two-days Debate after Easter, if necessary, and earlier, if possible?

Mr. Eden

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for expressing his views to me so plainly.

Mr. Quintin Hogg

Is my right hon. Friend yet in a position to announce a date for a Debate on the coalmining industry, which, in the view of many of us, is the, most pressing domestic problem at present?

Mr. Eden

I have only announced the Business for the next series of Sittings. I would not like to go further than that.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that it is proposed, on the third Sitting Day, to consider future Sittings of the House, in Secret Session. In view of the fact that the efficient running of this institution is at stake, with all that that means to the staff and others, have we not reached a stage in the war when it is in the public interest that this matter should be considered in public; and, if so, will my right hon. Friend agree to reconsider his decision, in order that the public shall know where we all stand with regard to the efficient running of the democratic machinery of this country?

Mr. Eden

That raises all the issues of security in connection with meetings of this House, which have been many times considered and debated, and I certainly could not undertake, before the third of the next series of Sitting Days, to make any change.


I want to ask the Leader of the House if he will arrange for a statement to be issued to the Press, following the conference with Ministers which has been taking place, in view of the fact that the "Daily Sketch" is able to publish information of what took place at that conference. If the "Daily Sketch" has special facilities for getting information it is hardly fair that the other papers should not get the opportunity of publishing a statement. Will the right hon. Gentleman have such a statement issued, or will he take action against the "Daily Sketch"?

Mr. Eden

I try to answer questions on Business, but I hope I shall not be asked to answer for the "Daily Sketch."

Mr. Maxton

Would I be breaking a Parliamentary understanding if I were to state, in public, that I am in favour of shorter rather than longer Sittings of the House? Would that be a wrong thing for me to say?

Mr. Eden

I should imagine so.

Mr. Ellis Smith

We look upon you, Mr. Speaker, as responsible for safeguarding the rights of private Members and, therefore, I want to put a question to you. Is it not taking advantage of the Standing Orders, for the Executive to propose that we should go into Secret Session on a matter of the kind to which I have re- ferred, in view of the fact that, once the Leader of the House has spied Strangers, the whole question is prejudiced? Between now and the time when this Secret Debate is to take place, will you, Sir, be good enough to consider whether the Executive are entitled, upon this issue, to spy Strangers? Will you not consider whether this is taking advantage of the Standing Orders?

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter for the House itself. If anybody spies Strangers I have to put the Question. Though it cannot be debated, the House can always say "No," and then the Strangers cannot be ordered to withdraw. Therefore, it is a matter entirely in the hands of the House itself.