The forthcoming Business will be as follows:
First Sitting Day—A Debate on the War Situation, with special reference to the Far East, will take place on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Second Sitting Day—The Debate will be concluded.
Third Sitting Day—We propose to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on going into Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates, 1942, and to consider Votes A, 1 and Navy Supplementary Estimate in Committee.
I think we shall certainly suspend the Rule on the first Sitting Day. On the second Sitting Day it will be prolonged, in accordance with the course we have adopted according to the time of the year. We might well consider during the course of the Debate whether the Rule should be suspended. The Government desire to give every possible scope to the Debate.
Would the Government consider that it may be the desire of the House to have a three days' Debate? I appreciate the importance of the other Government Business, but it will be within the recollection of the House that, on the last occasion when we discussed the situation in the Far East and other events of the war, a great many Members did not have an opportunity' of speaking. I realise that the time may be extended for the second day, but I still think the Government may find it the desire of the House that there should be a three-day Debate, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will say that this is the desire of the House and that the Government will give it consideration.
May I suggest that it might be for the convenience of the House that, if the first two days are restricted to the Far Eastern situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "They are not."]—That was suggested—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that the naval side of the war should be discussed on the third Sitting Day?
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider that the procedure he has suggested is one by which the Government may make a speech for the defence in secret and then the jury, having been brought in, hears the other side of the case? It seems to me that the nation is not in a position to judge unless it hears both sides of the case all round.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister suggested that it might be necessary to ask the House to go into Secret Session during the course of the Debate, and also that the Debate on the second day should be in open Session. I will convey the point to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, because obviously what the House desires is to receive the greatest possible amount of information without, as my hon. and gallant Friend says, giving away something which will be of advantage to the enemy. It is therefore a matter which is to be weighed very carefully by the Government. I quite agree that the public have a right to know the other side, and what the Government desire to do is to give the people of this country, and this House, the fullest possible information on which to form their judgment.
We will consider that, but the right hon. Member will agree that the Debate which is to take place next week must necessarily have precedence. But I understand the matter can be raised on the Estimates to-day.
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered that although the Beveridge Committee's Report does touch on Army matters, it also deals with two other Services as well, and raises highly controversial issues? Would it not be better, in view of the wide scope of the Army Debate to-day, to have a special day's Debate for that particular subject?
Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration that, during the last war Debate, in which the House expressed such a passionate interest, there were very often not a score of people in the House for considerable periods of time?
Will the right hon. Gentleman give instructions through the usual channels in case the House should wish to go into Public Session at some stage on the first Sitting Day rather than wait until the second Sitting Day?