§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Monday, 20th June.—[ Mr. R. A. Butler.]
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I oppose this Motion. As every hon. Member knows, it has been normal in recent years to permit the House an opportunity for a fortnight's Recess at Whitsun. This year that Recess has been unreasonably and unnecessarily extended. That we are adjourning for so long a period means that quite a number of topics, notice of which has been given on the Order Paper, cannot be discussed for lack of time, and perhaps I may be allowed, very briefly, to refer to just a few of them.
First of all, there is the Motion relating to the hours of opening of the British Museum. That Motion refers to a grievance that should be ventilated.
[That this House is of opinion that the weekday closing of the British Museum at 5 p.m. prevents many students from making use of the facilities there available for research and study, especially those of the Reading Room; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to make such provision as will enable the Trustees to extend substantially the hours of opening throughout the week.]
Then, in order to show my impartiality, I draw attention to the burning desire of a very large number of hon. Members opposite who want private patients to get their drugs at National Health Service prices, and have put down a Motion to that effect.
[That this House, noting that the number of doctors in private practice is rapidly diminishing, is of the opinion that the patients of such doctors should be enabled to obtain their medicines and drugs and have their prescriptions made up on the same terms as apply to National Health Service patients; and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce the necessary legislation to achieve this.]
There is also a Motion relating to the extension of publicly-owned enterprises to ensure full employment, in which a number of my hon. Friends representing Scottish constituencies are vitally interested.
1179 [That this House, while welcoming the efforts being made to induce development of private industry in areas of high unemployment, believes that where those efforts prove insufficient it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to bring full employment to those areas by setting up and operating publicly owned enterprises.]
Another topic that many hon. Members, particularly those who represent London constituencies, would like to discuss is the restrictive policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to local authority housing.
[That this House deplores the present financial policy of Her Majesty's Government, which is seriously slowing down the building of council houses and increasing rents and rates, thus adding still further to the long lists of people waiting for houses and to the difficulties of all local authorities.]
There is also on the Paper a Motion referring to National Insurance benefits and National Assistance scales.
[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce substantial increases in all National Insurance benefits to be financed, in view of the postwar effects of inflation on the value of benefits, by an Exchequer grant; and urges the National Assistance Board to make proposals as soon as possible to bring the assistance scales more closely into line with the increased national income and post-war standards of living, in order to provide more adequately for the needs of retirement pensioners and all who are suffering undue hardship.]
There is a Motion relating to full employment in the North-East.
[That this House, being seriously concerned about the growing unemployment in the North-East following the contraction in the mining industry, shipbuilding industry and ship-repair industry, deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government to induce private industry to come into the area, and therefore calls upon Her Majesty's Government to set up and operate publicly-owned industries in the North-East so as to ensure full employment.]
There is another Motion dealing with the ill-effects of the credit squeeze upon the North-East.
1180 [That this House views with concern the serious effect of the credit squeeze upon the North-East due to the already high unemployment figures there, and the inevitable increase in unemployment due to the contraction of the mining industry, shipbuilding industry, and ship-repair industry, and therefore calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take all steps necessary to insulate the North-East from the adverse effects of the credit squeeze.]
I conclude by referring to just one other Motion that should be discussed, that relating to a Commonwealth Convention of Human Rights.
[That this House, recalling the solemn obligation undertaken by the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries to co-operate with the United Nations by joint and separate action in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of race; welcoming the accession by Her Majesty's Government to the European Convention of Human Rights and its application to Crown Colonies and Protectorates; and recognising that the Commonwealth cannot endure unless all its members recognise and guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms irrespective of race, colour, or creed, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to initiate the study by all member-countries of the Commonwealth of the practicability of formulating a Commonwealth Convention of Human Rights and the establishment of the necessary investigatory and judicial organs necessary for that high purpose, so that all citizens of the Commonwealth, wherever residing, may be assured of the enjoyment of those fundamental rights and of protection against any infringement of the same.]
If the House were adjourning for the normal fortnight and not for the seventeen days proposed by the Government, at least some of those very important Motions could have been discussed. For those reasons, I oppose the Motion.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
The programme for next week outlined by the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) must warm the heart of the Leader of the House, and no doubt also warms the hearts of many other hon. Members, but I want to raise one point before we pass this Motion, and that is the need for the Government to 1181 make some statement on the negotiations in Cyprus. I am prevented from going into the merits of those negotiations, but it is common knowledge that they have dragged on for some time. Surely before we rise we should have a statement from the Government about the outstanding points—a statement upon which the Government could be questioned. We should also have from them their view as to how those points should be met.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
I should like to support the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). Before we go back to our constituencies, or to Ascot or elsewhere, we should have an opportunity to consider the problem of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus, as well as the position of our Forces, and indeed our responsibilities. After all, Cyprus is a N.A.T.O. base, and it is the headquarters of the Middle East Land Forces.
I should have thought that Her Majesty's Government—which, three weeks ago, said that negotiations were still in progress—would have frankly admitted that the negotiations have broken down and that no negotiations have taken place since. Out of courtesy to the House, and out of courtesy to the interest that we all have in the British community there, I think that the Government should make a statement before we agree to pass this Motion.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I wish to rebut the point of view advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). It is all very well for a Member representing a constituency on the doorstep of the House to voice those opinions. My hon. Friend does all right; he can pop out of the House to his constituency and back again without any difficulty. For most of us who represent constituencies a long way off, representation in Parliament is very much a two-way affair. We cannot readily find out exactly what our constituents want unless we go there, and, of course, there are a hundred and one constituency cases to be considered
on the spot. I think we do Parliament a great disservice if we suggest that hon. Members on both sides, who have since 1182 the last election conscientiously attended to their duties, have not earned the degree of respite which they are about to be given.
Life in Parliament is a very hectic business. On most days of the week, I leave my home at about 9 in the morning and I return home at about 11 o'clock at night, and, of course, there is a host of other things which bother me. I have never played down the position of the Member of Parliament. Continually to harp on his position as though he can be put on the clock, clocking in and then clocking off at the end of the day, with just Bank Holidays off, is to denigrate the Member's function.
Our job here cannot be equated with anything else. It is not just a job: it is a vocation, almost an avocation, too. One has to care about it, and I suppose one has to be reasonably dedicated to it if one wants to represent people here at all. The suggestion made, every time that the Adjournment of the House is moved for a week or so, that we ought not to go away to find out what the people want because of a whole host of things which the Leader of the House has not contrived to fit in, is really no argument at all.
What we ought to say is that the job of a Member of Parliament is a full-time job, if he pays attention to it. More than in any other job, a Member of Parliament is as good or as bad as he wants to be. Speaking for myself—I hope that many hon. Members will agree—I believe that we have earned the rest, if rest there is to be. But, of course, it means another kind of work. One cannot give out of oneself more than one is prepared to put in. I challenge any hon. Member to deny that there are a dozen and one documents which he ought to have read but which he has not yet read. One cannot do it while the House is sitting.
There is another point here. The argument that I challenge is usually advanced by people who are praying to God that their Motion will never be carried anyway. I suspect that a very great deal of disappointment would be felt by some hon. Members if they thought that their Motions would be carried.
§ Mr. Pannell
I think that my Division record can bear comparison with most. 1183 But that is not the test. Many people have travelled in various parts of the world in order to bring back a more informed judgment than they would have had if they had stayed in Brixton.
§ Mr. Lipton
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I must point out that Brixton is the world and the empire in microcosm.
§ Mr. Pannell
That irrelevancy was not a legitimate intervention. It was merely an abuse. I have no doubt at all that Members of Parliament are quite right to have a reasonable period in which to go back to their constituencies where they can find out what is happening and what people think, returning here again to bring an informed contribution to our proceedings. I stress again that London is not necessarily the country in these matters.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I am sure that the House will have been profoundly interested in the narrative of his industry given by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). Some may have regarded it as quite superfluous, and some may suspect that sometimes his industry carries him into quarters where, perhaps, he ought not to be discovered. Nevertheless, strange as it may seem, I extend to my hon. Friend 100 per cent. support, though for a different reason.
Let us suppose that the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) were carried and the House did not go into Recess for the contemplated fortnight or seventeen days, as the case may be. What do hon. Members think would transpire? [An HON. MEMBER: "I shall not come"] My hon. Friend can speak for himself. If I may say so, that was quite gratuitous. I am well aware that it will not happen. But what do hon. Members think would transpire? Does anyone really suppose that we should address ourselves to these important Motions of topical, general and international concern? Of course not. If I thought—I am sure that other hon. Members will share my view—that we should debate matters of profound interest to the nation and the world at large, I should take a different view. But that would not happen at 1184 all. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would pin our faces to the ground with a lot of footling, meandering legislation. [Laughter.] Did I say "the Leader of the Opposition"? Obviously, I must have my right hon. Friend in mind for some reason or other. I express my regret. Of course, I meant the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Leader of the House. The other pleasure, no doubt, can be deferred.
I have indicated exactly what would transpire. I recall that not very long ago—my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West played a hefty part in the affair—we discussed the question of procedure and speeches were made in all quarters of the House, the purport of which was that we should address ourselves from time to time, if the occasion permitted, to matters of wide interest, extending the scope of our debates. Of course, that has not happened. Indeed, now that hon. Members are assumed to take advantage of the Ballot for Notices of Motions, what do we find? They raise matters, not of profound interest, but of individual concern. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson)—he does not happen to be here at the moment—who gained a victory in the Ballot this afternoon, decided to raise the subject of homosexuality. I have no doubt that it is a matter which concerns a vast number of people. I beg to be excused. This is not the occasion to indulge in a confession that my taste lies in quite the opposition direction.
Really, are we serious about this business? I agree that sometimes the Recess is prolonged unnecessarily.
§ Mr. Lipton rose—
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend should not bother now, because he has nothing very important to interject, anyhow. Perhaps I may exercise a little intelligent anticipation in that respect.
Speaking quite earnestly, I feel sometimes, after quite long experience in the House, that, although I should not say we waste our time—I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West says about what hon. Members are compelled to do—we cannot help but waste time. We are not expected to be in the Chamber all the time to listen to some of these awful 1185 orations. That would be asking too much. We have enough to bear, with our customary fortitude, without having to endure that sort of thing.
There is the correspondence. Some of us have to write, and some people have something to do outside. I confine myself to this institution for the purpose of keeping my head above water. Other hon. Members are not in that position. Ought we not to be addressing ourselves from time to time, as an earnest assembly concerned with the well-being not only of our own community but of people in the Colonies and Commonwealth and other countries of the world, to vital topics of profound interest? We are not doing that. I beg the Leader of the House to try to find Government time occasionally, or perhaps through the usual channels, so that we can discuss these important topics. Do not let us waste time about this.
I mentioned the other day, at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, that I had seen in a report of the United Kingdom branch that one of our delegations discovered that it could not visit a certain Assembly because its Government had decreed that it go into Recess for twelve months. I am not suggesting that we should follow that example. Perhaps two weeks is not too long a period. We can meditate, reflect, ruminate and hibernate—whatever one likes to call it—but we should be able at the end of that period to come back refreshed to take part in our proceedings.
For the moment, I beg my hon. Friend not to press his Amendment or Motion. Let us go away for a fortnight, glad to get away for the time being, and proclaim it from the house-tops, and tell our constituents that from time to time we require to be relieved from the pre-sure exerted on us by the Government. I hope that my hon. Friends will not succumb to the blandishments of my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has made a very witty and attractive speech, as he always does. He is quite right to claim that he has a very long experience in the House of Commons. My own is not short, but his is much longer. I think that if he were to examine his personal record over the years he would 1186 find a number of occasions on which he made exactly the kind of speech, with exactly the same purpose, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). I can remember one or two of them, but I will not seek to embarrass him by quoting them.
I would point out to my right hon. Friend that my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton has not moved anything, neither Motion nor Amendment. It was the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House who moved the Motion. All that my hon. Friend is doing is to oppose it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would be the first to defend my hon. Friend's right to say to the Government exactly why he thinks that we ought not to accept the Motion.
The Motion which the Leader of the House has moved is not the usual Motion. If he had moved the ordinary, traditional Motion for a fortnight's Recess at Whitsuntide. I do not know what my hon. Friend would have done about it, but I certainly would not have opposed it. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that we should all be very bad Members of Parliament if we spent the whole of our time in this Chamber. I think that there should be reasonable opportunities not merely for relaxation but for journeys, study and obtaining information, so that we come back prepared to do our part in the House of Commons with at least as much general information as the ordinary lay citizen would have. I am all for that.
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West that he, too, was unfair to my hon. Friend, because he did not take into account that the whole point of my hon. Friend's intervention was not to object to the ordinary Whitsuntide vacation but to the proposal which lengthens it at a time when there is so much else that we ought to be doing. I feel sure that, on reflection, both my hon. and right hon. Friends will see reason and support the line which my hon. Friend has taken.
A number of subjects have been mentioned that we might discuss and which we are not likely to have an early opportunity of discussing because the Adjournment is so long. I would dissent from another thing which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington said. He 1187 may not be interested in the subject which one of my hon. Friends chose when he was lucky in the Ballot, but I would earnestly appeal to him not to be flippant about it. This is a subject which disturbs the minds of a great many people.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will come to that in a minute. I am not interested in that subject either, but it is true that the Government appointed a high-powered Commission to investigate it. That Commission came back with a Report and made recommendations. The House of Commons has never yet had an opportunity to reject its recommendations if it does not like them or assent to them if it does.
The subject which causes me to say that I think we need a shorter Recess, in order to come back to it, is that of yesterday's debate. I cannot see how anyone with a sense of responsibility can regard yesterday's debate as adequate, having regard to the issues which were raised or the grievous and perilous situation in which the world finds itself. I will not go into the merits of that now, because I should be out of order if I did so, and this is not the time to do so. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in the course of an admirable speech, asked a number of most important questions. The Foreign Secretary did not answer them. Nobody has answered them. If there were no other reason for reopening that debate, that in itself would be sufficient.
There is one other matter that I want to raise, but I am on rather more delicate ground in doing so because, if it were misinterpreted, it might sound like a criticism of Mr. Speaker, which I have no intention of making. The selection of speakers is for Mr. Speaker and for him alone. He is limited by the short time that inevitably is left, when Front Benchers on both sides finish speaking, to the rest of us. If the result of that is objectionable, it is not the fault of Mr. Speaker; but even if it is no fault of his, it is the fault of the House if it takes extra time on vacation rather than allowing a little of that extra time to repair these inadequacies. So far as yesterday's debate is concerned, on this 1188 side of the House the real issues were never brought out at all. Only one speaker who was not a right hon. Gentleman, or at some time or other a spokesman of the Front Bench, was called on this side of the House. That was the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) who, from his point of view, made an excellent speech. He was the only hon. Member called on this side of the House who was not either speaking from the Front Bench yesterday or who does not speak at other times on other subjects from the Front Bench.
It has been suggested that some hon. Members spend much of their Parliamentary time jumping from the rear benches to the Front Benches, so that they can speak officially from the Front Bench on some subjects and, when they want to exercise their rights on another subject, slip back to the back benches, but they somehow manage to be called just the same.
The result is that there goes out to the world a wholly false picture of what this House really thought about the issues debated yesterday. It is not right that it should be so. I repeat that I am not blaming anybody. I am only saying that these three extra days which the Government are asking us to add to the Recess need not be added to it. Let us do three days' work this time, as we have done year after year for so many years past, and let us devote one of them, at any rate, to repairing the inadequacies of yesterday's woefully unrepresentative debate.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I hesitate to impose myself on the House, but I want to make a few brief observations. My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) is one of those who seem to think that a Member of Parliament should spend all of his time in the House. He overlooks the fact that the duties of a Member of Parliament include seeing his constituents, finding out what they require and making himself conversant with their needs in general. He fails to realise that a Member of Parliament is much like a parish minister who has pastoral duties to interview his constituents and to help them with their difficulties. That is one of the things that can be and is 1189 done during Recesses such as the one we are discussing.
There is another point that I should like to make in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). The reason time cannot be found for the subjects which have been mentioned for discussion is due to two things—first, the bad organisation of time on the part of the Government, and notably the Leader of the House, and secondly, the fact that some of the speeches, indeed most of the speeches, are far too long. I suggest that a way should be found of inducing Members to put their points clearly and simply, as I am doing now.
The third point that I wish to make is that no regard is paid by those who oppose the Motion to the fact that we are in the middle of very fine weather. Those who, like myself, represent constituencies as beautiful as the constituency of Aberdeen, with its wonderful beach, welcome the opportunity of some relaxation by swimming in the sea.
I think that those are three very good reasons why the Motion should be passed. I support it, and I hope that the House will give its Members the opportunity to enjoy Whitsuntide and to use it in the way that I have adumbrated.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I think that it would be courteous of me to make a short reply to the very important points raised by hon. Members. As has been said, the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) has moved nothing. He moved no Amendment, and I doubt whether he moved anybody. His speech was based on a complete misapprehension. He said that the Recess had been unnecessarily extended. In fact, if he studied the records he would see that, whereas on this occasion we are having sixteen clear days, from 1956 to 1959 we had seventeen clear days, in 1953 seventeen clear days, and in 1950 and 1951, under the Opposition's temporary administration of the country, seventeen clear days. We are, therefore, reducing the quite normal period of the Whitsun Recess, apart from 1955, from seventeen to sixteen days.
The hon. Member illuminated his argument with parrot-like cries, saying that the Recess should be fourteen days. Does 1190 he imagine that we should move the Adjournment next Friday, and that we should come back on Friday night or Saturday morning and sit on Saturday morning after fourteen days instead of returning on the Monday as we have now arranged?
§ Mr. Lipton
I put forward that suggestion merely because the right hon. Gentleman himself said on 26th May:It has been normal in recent years to permit the House of Commons an opportunity for a fortnight's Recess at Whitsun—"[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1960; Vol. 624, c. 681.]I was merely repeating the right hon. Gentleman's words. Now I am being blamed for it.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Gentleman said that the Recess should be reduced from sixteen to fourteen days. That would take us up to Saturday fortnight. I do not recommend that the House should accept a proposal that we should resume on the Saturday rather than the Monday. We are cutting down the seventeen days given on previous occasions almost consecutively since 1950 to sixteen days so as to meet again on the Monday. We are doing that simply because we want to proceed with Government business. Although we may not be able to deal with the seven or eight subjects referred to by the hon. Member for Brixton, it at least means that we shall return to our duties on the Monday rather than on the Tuesday. To that extent, that is an answer to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). We are not extending the Recess, but, compared with precedent, shortening it by one day.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) raised a serious matter, the subject of a statement on Cyprus, and was supported by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates). I am perfectly ready to discuss this matter with my right hon. Friend principally concerned. The negotiations have not broken down, as has been stated. For the moment they are suspended, but I see no reason to suppose that we need be unduly pessimistic, nor that this is a reason for altering acceptance of the Motion by the House. If there is occasion for a statement which will be valuable, we shall certainly pay attention to the hon. Member's request. I hope that he will withdraw his opposition to the Motion. 1191 The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) differs in his reasons for the Recess from the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North wishes to remain perpetually at sea, while the hon. Member for Leeds, West wishes to revert to his normal Parliamentary duties in his constituency I hope that we shall have a combination of both—a bit of recreation for hon. Members and a bit of constituency work. I am sure that this is vital to the conduct of Parliament.
I should now like to deal with the points raised by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). We have no intention of adjourning the House for twelve months or of introducing any form of dictator activity. We live by the House of Commons and with the House of Commons. We are refreshed by it and restored in our feelings by the right hon. Gentleman's views and by those of other hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman, by mistake this time, attacked his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for footling and meandering in any future legislation he may be called upon to bring in. By a sleight of hand he has fallen upon his normal practice of disagreement with his normal chief.
I think that that is all that I need say, except to refer to the serious argumentation of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. He thought that yesterday's debate was not adequate. That may be the view of the hon. Member, but it is a matter of opinion. I think that it would be difficult in any debate, if there is an approximation of views on foreign policy, which I thing is patriotic and important at present, to reveal the same excitement of discussion as when we are attacking one another. That may be one reason why the hon. Member was disappointed by the tone and level of yesterday's debate.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously saying to the House of Commons that, When the House is debating one of the most fundamental questions it can ever debate in circumstances which are perhaps more critical than at any other time in human history, if there are people with genuinely differing points of view, subject to the 1192 common object of preserving the peace of the world, it becomes a patriotic duty and a proper activity of the House of Commons to suppress those views?
§ Mr. Butler
No, Sir. I was saying quite the opposite. In a debate in which there is, as Mr. Speaker FitzRoy used to say, the cut and thrust of argument and a degree of violent opposition, there are always more animated expressions and usually more animated argument. On this occasion, there was a deliberate speech by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in which he indicated that this reverse did not occasion a change in British policy. I think that that is not only sensible but sage and sound at present. The Leader of the Opposition indicated that he agreed in general with the line being taken, and he asked several questions. It was an unfortunate coincidence that, owing to the pressure of Colonial Office Questions, some of the Answers which my right hon. Friend might have given today could not be given. That is an unfortunate coincidence and casualty of our House of Commons procedure. It does not mean that this is an occasion for stopping the Adjournment of the House or for accepting opposition to the Motion.
I sympathise with any hon. Member who is anxious about the state of the international situation—it is the gravest, possibly, that this House has ever met —but I do not think that, with the general outlook of several months ahead which all experts in foreign policy agree is inevitable, by giving ourselves a fortnight's respite from our own company we shall be any the less good counsellors when we return again to deal with the situation. I therefore consider it right that we should take this fortnight's respite and that the Motion should be carried.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
The right hon. Gentleman should clarify what he has just said about the nature of yesterday's debate. To me, it was an extraordinary and disturbing statement. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that yesterday's debate was not regarded—by whom I do not know, but it was not regarded by some right hon. and hon. Members—as an occasion on which there would be the usual conflict between the two sides, the usual cut and 1193 thrust of debate, and the usual expression of controversy and disagreement. Yesterday, apparently, was an occasion on which it was regarded by those right hon. and hon. Members that we should all be assembled in a patriotic mood of agreement with one another and with the Government.
If that is what the right hon. Gentleman meant to convey, is he going on to say that the speakers who took part in the debate were contributing to the demonstration of national unity behind the Government? Is he suggesting that they were called with that purpose in mind? [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] I do not wish to say anything, Mr. Speaker, that would reflect upon your choice of speakers, but when the right hon. Gentleman has made this extraordinary and disturbing statement about the character of the debate, we should have an indication of exactly what was implied by that statement, and we should know which debates in future are to be regarded as arranged in order to make patriotic displays and which are arranged for the conduct of our business—
§ Mr. Warbey
—so that the Opposition may know when it may condemn the sorry record of the Government.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I do not have much to add to what the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) has contributed. The choice of speakers must be entirely a matter for the discretion of the Chair, and I have no intention of commenting on that. With regard to the rest of the hon. Member's remarks, I am well satisfied that what I have said is correct. Yesterday may have been regarded by some as a quiet debate. It may have been regarded as some as inadequate to the general horror which faces the world. That is a legitimate point of view. I was only making the point that on an occasion when people are awed by the circumstances of the international situation, it is not, perhaps, surprising that the debate should be quieter than on other occasions when we feel that we can be more irresponsible and can give greater vent to our feelings.
In justice to the hon. Member, I go so far as to say that, after a period of 1194 reflection, it may well be that a more profound debate could be held in the House on the impact of recent events than could be held so soon after them. If so, that is all the more reason why we should be given time to think. I should be the first to wish that the House of Commons should rise to the severity and grandeur of these occasions.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
The Leader of the House has admitted that it was unfortunate that, at the end of the debate yesterday, certain important questions that had been raised were not answered. The Foreign Secretary said that he would not answer them because his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would answer them today. Unfortunately, at Question Time today, these issues were not reached. It may well be that on Thursday, the last opportunity for what will be virtually three weeks, the Questions will either not be on the Order Paper or, again, will not be reached. Will the Leader of the House undertake to ensure that before the House adjourns in accordance with the Motion, a statement, either by the Foreign Secretary or by the Prime Minister, will be made so that these Questions are answered and the Members interested, including my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who raised some of them, will have an opportunity of asking supplementary questions?
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
That is a legitimate question. What happened today was a sheer accident. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had the Answers, but the Questions were not reached. That is the simple fact. I cannot talk to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, because he will be abroad until, I think, the House rises, doing his duty in America, but I will certainly talk to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I know that it would be his wish that, if the Questions were reached, he should answer them. In the event of that not seeming likely, I can discuss with my right hon. Friend the point raised by the hon. Member.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Monday, 20th June.