Russian Famine Relief.

– in the House of Commons on 9th March 1922.

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Photo of Mr George Barnes Mr George Barnes , Glasgow Gorbals

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, "the refusal of the Government to agree to any Grant-in-Aid of the Russian Famine, and the consequent injury that will necessarily arise to the economic interests of this country."

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I cannot accept that Motion as one coming under Standing Order No. 10. Unhappily, the famine in Russia has been a long-continuing matter. It has been pointed out to-day that there is no change in the attitude of His Majesty's Government, and therefore, in my view, the Motion does not come under Standing Order No. 10.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

Would it affect your view if it were brought to your knowledge that the whole of the British funds will be exhausted on 15th May, and that afterwards there will be no means of feeding these children there?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I do not think that affects the matter. I have to look not merely at the individual case, but where the question will lead, and I know of no Motion for Adjournment under Standing Order No. 10 which proposed to call upon the Government to spend money outside this country. I can think of a dozen cases which might arise if I were to set a precedent.

Photo of Mr George Barnes Mr George Barnes , Glasgow Gorbals

May I ask if you have given due weight to the concluding sentence of my Motion, namely, "the consequent injury that will necessarily arise to the economic interests of this country"—the reflex of the impoverishment of Russia upon this country. If we cannot have the adjournment to-night, may I ask the Leader of the House, having regard to the great public interest in this matter, if he could arrange to give time for a discussion?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I have given due weight to the last paragraph of the right hon. Member's proposed Motion, but it does not alter the view that I take.

Captain BENN:

May I ask, as regards the question of urgency, whether you have borne in mind the fact that the time for sowing in Russia is limited?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

That does not affect the principle upon which I have based by decision.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I was going to press the Government, if possible, to give a day for the discussion of this matter.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

There is no Member to whom I would more gladly give way if it were in my power to do so than to my right hon. Friend (Mr. G. Barnes) but we are in great difficulty about the business of the House.

Supply has moved more slowly than I anticipated, and much more slowly than was anticipated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) when we were discussing the Motion taking the time of the House. The Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill has also taken more time, and I do not see how it is possible to give extra days for other discussions until we have completed the Supply necessary before 31st March. There is hardly a day passes on which I am not asked to allot time for one subject or another.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Could we have a day after the 31st March?

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

Would it be possible to raise this matter on the Civil Service Estimates Vote on Account?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

That will be in Committee, and that is a question for the Chairman of Ways and Means; but I imagine, if it be the desire of the House generally, that it could be done, because the salaries of all the Ministers are included in the Vote on Account, and therefore any responsibility attaching to any Minister could be brought up.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

For the convenience of the House, may I say that if the right hon. Gentleman who has raised the question, or any other hon. Member, will put a question down for Monday or Tuesday, I hope by that time to be able to give a more specific answer as to the extent of the relief which we can give under the terms I have already mentioned.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

Will the right hon. Gentleman not be able to facilitate some discussion on the matter, which excites the greatest possible interest of many people outside, who feel that it is one which very closely affects the good name and welfare of this country?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

If the matter be in order on any of the business that comes before the House, I shall, of course, raise no objection to a discussion, but I cannot make more than 24 hours in a day—and less than that in a Parliamentary day—nor can I stop the discussion which the House may think necessary for the special business on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The Vote on Account, if there be a responsibility attaching to the Government, or one of the stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill might afford the opportunity he wishes to the Noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

Yes, Sir, but the difficulty is that it is impossible to get a Division in the House which will indicate the opinion of hon. Members on this very important question. Personally I think it is the most important question we have now before us.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

In any case, the Noble Lord, as a private Member, could not initiate expenditure.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

May I say that if a question be put down for Monday, I may be able to speak rather more definitely than I have been able to do, and to say also whether a Supplementary Estimate will be needed to authorise the gift of supplies. I understand that such an Estimate will be needed, and, therefore, it may afford an opportunity for discussion of the matter.

Photo of Sir John Norton-Griffiths Sir John Norton-Griffiths , Wandsworth Central

Will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour that it shall be so arranged that this House may have an opportunity of voting upon it?