Deputations to Prime Minister.

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence. – in the House of Commons on 18th November 1936.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the arrangements which are being made by him to interview certain private Members of the House at which important State affairs are to be discussed, he will give facilities to other private Members to obtain the information disclosed at this interview if they desire it?

Photo of Mr Harold Balfour Mr Harold Balfour , Isle of Thanet

asked the Prime Minister whether, in addition to the deputation he has expressed a willingness to receive of right hon. and hon. Members led by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) who wish to lay before the Government information on defence questions, he is willing also to receive other private Members in deputations who may wish to do likewise; and if, in view of the fact that all private Members have the same responsibilities nationally and to their constituents, he will give an assurance that no special information on defence questions shall be restricted to any one group of Members, but be available to all equally who may wish to take advantage of his willingness to impart information, whether it be information volunteered by the Government or collected in answer to statements made by deputations?

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

His Majesty's Government make no distinction between Members of the House as such in regard to their rights to ask for and to receive information, and it is, and always has been, their intention to observe this principle in practice. The Government, however, reserve to themselves the right to impart to Privy Councillors any information which, in the Government's opinion, it would be in the public interest to confide to them.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

May I ask whether this information will be conveyed to other private Members and not given exclusively to Privy Councillors? Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the Government are creating a dangerous precedent in imparting information of this nature to a supplementary and unofficial committee on imperial defence?

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

If the hon. Member will look at the answer I have given to the question he will see that it really deals quite correctly with the point raised.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

Do I understand that all private Members enjoy the same rights as are going to be enjoyed by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and his friends?

Photo of Mr Harold Balfour Mr Harold Balfour , Isle of Thanet

Do I understand from the answer that the Prime Minister would be willing to receive deputations similar in numbers and for the same purpose as the deputation of the right hon. Member for Epping and other hon. Members?

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

The Prime Minister must have, as the hon. and gallant Member will agree, discretion as to how he arranges his time, but the principle which I think is understood by all hon. Members is perfectly plain, that Members of this House are equal in these matters, and that their applications are dealt with on the level of equality.

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister on numerous occasions has received numerous deputations on very many subjects quite regardless as to where they have come from?

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

No doubt that is the case.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

Is it the view of the Government that only Privy Councillors are to be trusted and that ordinary Members of the House are not to be trusted?

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

The point is that when you have given this information to private individuals or a group of individuals, what guarantee have you that it is going to be kept secret?