Business of the House.

– in the House of Commons on 19th March 1942.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he has any statement to make on the future course of Business and the date of the Budget?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Before announcing the forthcoming Business, I would like to make a general statement on the future Sittings of the House. We have obtained now all the essential financial Business which is required before the end of the financial year, and the Government propose that the House should adjourn for the Easter Recess on the next third Sitting Day. The Government believe that many hon. Members will welcome a longer Adjournment than is usual at this time of year, to give them more time to visit their constituencies. Ministers affected by the recent changes in the Government will also be relieved of attendance upon this House, and thereby enabled to devote their whole time to their Departmental responsibilities. The promised Debate on Production will take place on the next first and second Sitting Days. We shall also ask the House to take the Second Reading of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill during the week and any Amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Bill which may be received from another place. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on the second Sitting Day after the Recess. A further statement will be made as to the arrangements for that day, but it will, no doubt, be generally convenient to follow the procedure of last year.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the intention of the Government that this House should rise for the period mentioned without having any possibility of examining the position in regard to the loss of Malaya and Singapore; and does he realise that there will be great feeling in the country unless this matter is debated in the House before there is any long Adjournment?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

The position about Malaya and Singapore has been fully explained. We have asked for those reports, which will be received, I hope, before very long. It may be that in the meantime, though I cannot tell, we shall get some information from other sources, but the hope is not very great, conditions being what they are and our commanders having been captured. I can tell the House that whatever information we have will be made fully, available to the House, whether it comes from General Gordon-Bennett or from any other source. We do not wish to conceal information, but we cannot give information that we have not got.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

Arising out of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, and especially his reference to the desire of Members to visit their constituencies, may I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that if we visit our constituencies, we are bound to be asked a number of questions about the present war situation? Speaking for myself, and I believe the view is shared by many other Members, we have recently been kept very scarce of information as to the position. We know we have been going through a very critical time, and I feel that before we part for this Recess, if it is within the power of the Government to give Members some further information on the general war situation, then Members would be far better fitted to go into their constituencies than they can possibly be in present circumstances.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I fully appreciate what my hon. Friend says, and it is not the Government's position that they want to withhold any information, with the proviso always, of course, that it is not of value to the enemy, but I fear, on the information at present available, there is not likely to be anything that I can add before the House rises.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to arrange that when the Debate on Production takes place the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Aircraft Production will be present, in view of the short time which the Minister of State has had to familiarise himself with all the details?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

The Minister of Production will open the Debate.

Mr. Minder:

Yes, but I am asking whether the right hon. Gentleman will arrange for the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Aircraft Production to be present.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I have no doubt the usual arrangements will be made.

Photo of Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid , St Marylebone

Will there be an opportunity of discussing the Bucknill Report in this House, in secret or otherwise?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister explained yesterday why this Report could not possibly be made public. To do so would give very valuable information to the enemy, under a wide number of heads. The Government have considered whether it would be possible, in secret or otherwise, to give any information based on the Report or any excerpts from it. I am bound to tell the House that we feel it would be impossible. If you are to give a fair and balanced account of what the Report says, and do justice to its value, I am afraid there is no choice, no alternative, between complete publication of the Report and withholding it, and I am convinced that complete publication would he greatly against the national interest.

Photo of Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid , St Marylebone

Could we not have a Debate in secret?

Photo of Sir Frank Sanderson Sir Frank Sanderson , Ealing

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there is no truth in the report that the country is to suffer from a large number of Ministerial speeches during the Recess? Is he also aware that the country would very much prefer that the Government should get on with the prosecution of the war?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I cannot answer for the speeches of my colleagues, but I think most of us have lots of work to do.

Colonel Evans:

Can we understand from my right hon. Friend that the Debate on Production during the first two days of the next series of Sittings will include matters relating to Aircraft Production, or will there be a separate Debate, to cover Aircraft Production, in secret at a later date?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Yes, Sir, it is the intention to have a separate Debate to cover Aircraft Production.

Photo of Sir Stanley Reed Sir Stanley Reed , Aylesbury

While I recognise that the Government cannot give us information which they do not possess with regard to Malaya and Singapore, will my right hon. Friend give the House and the country a definite assurance now, that when the time is ripe there shall be a public inquiry on the lines of the Dardenelles Commission into the whole of the calamitous events resulting in the loss of Malaya and culminating in the fall of Singapore? With nothing less will the House and the country be satisfied.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I cannot give an undertaking of that kind. Indeed, my hon. Friend must appreciate the position in which the Government now are, and I know he will appreciate the difference in the circumstances, between this occasion and the occasion of the Dardanelles inquiry.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Does the right hon. Gentleman really expect the country to accept the statement of the Government that a month after the loss of Singapore and Malaya they are still not in a position to convey any information to this House? Does it not put the Government in a very bad light?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

The circumstances with regard to Singapore are known in that all our commanders were captured, but other circumstances are not known. I feel sure that the country will believe I am telling the truth when I say that I shall be only too glad to give any information when I can which will not be useful to the enemy.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

May I put a question with regard to future times of Sittings? Will the proposed time of Sitting on Budget Day form a precedent for future Sittings?