Business of the House.

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

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Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he could, for the convenience of the House, state his views about the conduct of the Debate to-day and on the next Sitting Day as regards the length of the Sittings?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

In order to meet the wishes of the House to allow as many hon. Members as possible to take part in the Debate, we propose to extend the Sitting to-day until such time as the House may think con- venient. We are prepared to sit to as late an hour as the House wishes. The Debate will be concluded on the next Sitting Day, and as at present advised it is not proposed to extend the Sitting on that day as there will be ample time to-day. We propose on the next Sitting Day to move the Motion fixing the dates of the Whitsuntide Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

When will the Minister of Defence take his part in the Debate?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

It is not proposed that the Minister of Defence should take part in the Debate.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman really mean that the House is to be treated with disrespect through the Minister of Defence not being present to take part in a Debate dealing with the work of his own Ministry?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

I said that it is not at present proposed that the Minister of Defence should take part in the Debate.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Has the House ever been treated more disrespectfully?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

It is not always desirable that the Minister of Defence should be present—we quite appreciate that—but if some point should emerge which impinges on the functions of the Minister of Defence, is it not very desirable that he should be present and have an opportunity of taking part in the Debate?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

If some point emerges which he considers he should come here and deal with, he will certainly come.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Will opportunity be taken during the forthcoming Debate to give the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the opportunity to make a statement to the House and to the country on his visit to the Far East and the conditions in Malaya and Singapore before they fell?

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

May I put again a point which my right hon. and learned Friend put rather unfortunately? He said "if the Minister of Defence thought it necessary to attend." Surely if the House asked, in a proper and courteous manner, for the Minister of Defence to come down and answer any point, the Minister should be prepared to do so?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

He will be the best judge of that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He will be the judge on the Debate of whether, in his opinion, it is necessary, in order to satisfy the House, for him to come here and make a statement.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman is taking this a little bit too far. Surely it is not for the Minister of Defence to be the sole judge as to whether he should attend the House and participate in the Debate. It should be for the House to express its views as to whether the subject warrants the presence and participation in the Debate of the Minister of Defence?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

When the hon. Gentleman says, "It is for the House," he will appreciate that many people in the House may express different views. It will be for the Minister to judge on the different views expressed whether it is necessary for him to attend.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

Would it not be the case that if a substantial number of Members felt that for the proper conduct of the Debate the presence of the Minister of Defence was desirable, he would most certainly appear?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

Certainly, but he must be the judge of whether the number is substantial or not. Someone has to judge that.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

May I refer again to my point? Why are the Government not to allow the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to speak in this Debate? He is the only person who can speak with first-hand experience. Are they afraid he will say something indiscreet?