HC Deb 10 October 1944 vol 403 cc1574-6

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

73. COLONEL LYONS to ask the Secretary of State for War what articles of clothing will be left in the possession of members of the Home Guard on standing down.

77. MRS. BEATRICE WRIGHT to ask the Secretary of State for War if it is his intention that all equipment issued to the Home Guard shall be returned.

78. SIR AUSTIN HUDSON to ask the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the services which they have rendered to the nation during the war, the members of the Home Guard may be allowed to retain their uniforms and boots on demobilisation.

81. MR. LIPSON to ask the Secretary of State for War if members of the Home Guard will, after demobilisation, be allowed to retain their boots, coats and gas capes as some measure of compensation for the financial sacrifices they have had to make during their period of service.

82. COMMANDER. KING-HALL to ask the Secretary of State for War whether members of the Home Guard will be allowed to retain their uniforms free of charge when the force is stood down.

90. COLONEL BURTON to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement as to the future status of the Home Guard; and whether they will be permitted, in the event of disbandment, to retain any or all of their equipment.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, as there are several very important Questions regarding the Home Guard down to-day for the Secretary of State for War, is it possible for him to make a statement now?

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter for the Minister concerned.

The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)

My statement in reply to these Questions is a very short one, Sir, and I shall be glad to give it if the House desires. Since the relaxation in Home Guard duties which came into effect on 11th September the question of the retention of uniform by members has been reconsidered in the light of an up to date assessment of the supply position. As a result it has been found possible to allow each member to retain his battle dress, cap, gas cape, anklets, boots and greatcoat in addition to the items mentioned in the stand down regulations.

Mr. Bellenger

On a point of Order. How far, Mr. Speaker, are you going to allow this practice to continue? Are you going to permit a Minister to be the sole judge as to whether the Questions on the Order Paper which have not been reached by 12 o'clock are important enough to be answered?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter in which I have any choice. A Minister has been allowed under our Rules to answer a Question which is on the Order Paper but has not been reached. It is not a matter over which I have any control.

Earl Winterton

May I, on that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, revert to a point I put to you before, and ask whether this matter could have the attention of the authorities in regard to the possibility of a new Standing Order? In theory the result of your Ruling, which of course I accept, is that half a dozen Ministers could get up and make statements and the time given for Debate would be reduced very materially. If, as you say, you have no power to prevent a Minister doing that, there is nothing to prevent half a dozen Ministers from following the same course.

Mr. Speaker

I was not allowing the Minister to make a statement—he was answering Questions on the Order Paper.

Mr. A. Hopkinson

Is it not a fact that in this instance it was not the decision of the Chair, but the decision of the House, which obviously wished to hear the Minister's statement and gave him permission to make that statement?

Captain Cunningham-Reid

As the Minister has given preference to several important Home Guard Questions, will he also given preference to Question 110, which also deals with the Home Guard?

Sir J. Grigg

After the reception of my first attempt to meet what I understood was the overwhelming desire of the House, I do not think I will try again.