Oral Answers to Questions — Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

– in the House of Commons on 25th February 1938.

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Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he can now state the name of the new Foreign Secretary?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I hope to complete my arrangements in the course of the day, and to make the announcement in the usual way before the week-end.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

Are we to take it, therefore, that the newspapers are entirely incorrect in saying that already it has been decided to appoint a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who will not be sitting in this House?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I do not think that I am called upon to correct, to deny or to confirm these statements which appear in the papers.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise that at the present time, as he knows, foreign affairs are a burning issue in this country, and that, if this House is to be shut down by not having a Foreign Secretary to answer on these important questions, it raises a very big constitutional issue.

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The right hon. Gentleman has already made some similar observations to that, and I have said that I would try to bear these considerations in mind.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? It is 33 years since the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman established the precedent that the Foreign Secretary should be in the House of Commons, and, with the exceptions of appointments made during the War and one or two weeks when Lord Reading occupied the office in 1931, that rule has been completely observed. We now know that the Prime Minister is going to appoint a Foreign Secretary in the other House, but he is holding up the information until this House has risen to-day. May I ask you, as not being a party man, and as champion of this House, whether you can assist us in any way, in order that the control of the most important part of the public policy of to-day should remain in the hands of the elected Members?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I do not think that I am called upon to express any opinion.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

May I give notice that, in the event of the appointment of a Foreign Minister who is not in this House, I shall ask for time for discussion.