Business of the House

– in the House of Commons on 26th March 1942.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

May I ask the Leader of the House what will be the Business of the House at the first Sittings after the Easter Recess?

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

First Sitting Day—Committee and remaining stages of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill. The Chairman of Ways and Means will propose a Motion inviting the House to approve of a Report from the Select Committee on the Disposal and Custody of Documents. All this Business for the first Sitting Day is, of course, subject to any alteration that may be necessitated by the course of the war.

Second Sitting Day—The Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget.

Third and fourth Sitting Days—A general Debate will take place on the Budget Resolutions.

Last year no Oral Questions were taken on Budget Day, but the rights of hon. Members to submit urgent Private Notice Questions to Mr. Speaker were not affected. This arrangement was found to be generally convenient to the House and to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has special considerations to bear in mind on Budget Day. We propose, therefore, to follow the same procedure this year, and to take only Private Notice Questions on that day. If the House agrees to this course, hon. Members will have their ordinary opportunities for asking Questions during that week.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

May I ask whether provision is to be made for a Debate on the War Situation, if necessary?

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

We have put down the Business which I have just announced, but, of course, if it should become necessary to make a statement or something of that kind, we can always alter the arrangements.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the House generally it is felt to be inconvenient to meet at the proposed hour on the first Sitting Day?

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

Yes, I did know that there was some difficulty in that respect, but, as the result of such inquiries as it has been possible to make since yesterday, I am informed that, on the whole, the House would rather stick to the proposed arrangement.

Photo of Mr Edgar Granville Mr Edgar Granville , Eye

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when he expects to get the report from Major-General Gordon-Bennett on Singapore; and does he ask the House and the country to allow four weeks to elapse without any information at all being given on this subject? Is he aware that a large number of people have relatives in Singapore; and would it not be possible to give the House some sort of information about Singapore in the same way as he gave us some information about Hong Kong?

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

I do not understand what my hon. Friend means by a lapse of four weeks. It is not proposed to adjourn for four weeks. It is possible that between now and the reassembly of the House we shall have information from Major-General Gordon-Bennett, and I hope we may also have some information from other sources. If we have the information we shall be quite ready to make it available to the House, and I realise that the more that can be said the better, from the point of view of feeling in the country, but we must have the material to deal with first.

Photo of Mr Robert Taylor Mr Robert Taylor , Morpeth

Will the Leader of the House say whether any statement which is to be made will include reference to the units that were at Singapore, as there is great concern among many people as to whether their boys were at Singapore or not?

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

I should certainly be glad to consider that point if it is possible to give such information.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

I wish to ask a question with reference to to-day's Business. I understand that there is a matter of considerable importance to be discussed to-day and that it will probably be the third item to be debated. I refer to the question of the "Daily Mirror," which seems to me to raise the whole question of the administration of the Defence Regulations by the Home Office, in which case many Members will wish to take part. In the circumstances I want to know whether steps could be taken to suspend the Rule.

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

I do not think there are any precedents for suspending the Rule on the day of Adjournment, and I doubt whether it would be for the convenience of the House. As to the order in which subjects will be taken, that will be in the hands of the Chair.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

With regard to Singapore, since the Recess on which we are about to enter is largely for the purpose of enabling us to consult our constituents, and since there is a very widespread demand not only for a statement but for an inquiry into the Singapore disaster, and in view of the refusal of that inquiry, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the request for an inquiry will be reconsidered during the Recess?

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

I do not think I can go beyond what I have said, which is that we hope to receive more information during the Recess. That information will be examined, and we shall determine as the result of it what we shall say to the House when it meets.

Commander Bower:

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind as regards Singapore that the anxiety of the country is not so much concerning petty tactical details of what happened on the spot at the last moment, but the whole strategical direction of the Malayan campaign, the lack of appreciation of Japanase strength, the appalling lack of intelligence and the general bungling, for which those who are responsible are mainly in this country and available to give evidence, a great many of them sitting on the Front Bench?

Photo of Mr Edgar Granville Mr Edgar Granville , Eye

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply, that if the Government receive this report from General Gordon-Bennett they will consider it during the Recess, mean that they will give the House an opportunity on the first day we meet to discuss the whole question?

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

I cannot say what we are going to do till we have the report, but we will do our best during the Recess to get information from other sources and in the light of it determine how we shall handle the situation, whether by means of a statement to the House or by some other means.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Do the Government propose to grant the Commission of Inquiry asked for by a large number of hon. Members regarding Malaya and Singapore?

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

That is covered by the answer that I have given.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

What was the answer?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

Shall we have an early opportunity of discussing the Fifth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, and its implications and recommendations and findings, which many of us have read with considerable interest?

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

I should like to consider that.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

I gave the right hon. Gentleman notice two days ago of my intention to ask such a question, and I was wondering whether he would be in a position to reply to-day.

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

If it is my fault, I apologise, but I have not had notice.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

In view of the terrible anxiety of many people who do not know whether their relatives at Singapore are prisoners or dead, would the right hon. Gentleman consider setting up some kind of department or office where those with relatives who are missing could apply for information?

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

They can apply to the War Office. I should like to consider whether we cannot make a full announcement about the units that were there.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

They can write to the War Office, but they just do not tell anyone. That is all that is wrong. I want to know whether there is some way of giving these people the feeling that something is being done in the matter?

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

We are trying to get all the information we can. I think we could allay anxiety to some extent by a statement of the units there.