I beg to move,
That this House, at its rising upon the next Sitting Day, do adjourn till—
I have already informed hon. Members a short time ago that it was proposed that the House should adjourn. I would like to make it clear to the House and to the country that this is not in order to give hon. Members a holiday, nor, I am sure, will they in fact get such a holiday, as they will all have many other important activities to undertake in their constituencies and elsewhere. I think it is not realised by some persons what a strain the constant attendance on Parliament puts upon Ministers and others, and what a very considerable burden is cast upon the administration by the constant attendance upon the desires of the House in the answering of Questions, and otherwise. It is absolutely essential, if we are to preserve the efficiency of Ministers and their staffs, that there should be an opportunity for them to have a consecutive period free from Parliamentary duties, so that they may have a chance, in turn, of taking a few days' relaxation and so that they may be without the interruption of Parliamentary business in their Departments. This essential period of the cessation of Parliamentary activities does not mean that the Government may not recall Parliament if the need arises, by making to you" Mr. Speaker, representations for which provision is
made. They most certainly will do so, and the House may rest assured that, if there is any special information to be communicated to hon. Members, or if any unexpected situation arises, they will be recalled. I very fully appreciate the feelings of hon. Members that, in such difficult times as the present, they desire to remain at their posts, but I am sure that they will realise the need for Parliament to rise for a short time for the reasons that I have given.
I think the House fully appreciates the arguments which have been put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend. Nobody can believe that the public interest is to be served, or public feeling in any way influenced, if this House meets for no special purpose. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has given a very specific assurance that if the Government feel that it is necessary, they will recall the House. May I put this point to him? It has been put before, and answered, as no doubt my right hon. and learned Friend will say. There may be feelings outside Government circles, and, after all, some of us are in a position to be more closely in touch with public opinion than busy Ministers can possibly be. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman undertake, if representations are made from responsible quarters for the reassembly of the House, that those representations will be given earnest consideration?
Certainly, without the slightest doubt. If serious representations were to be made from responsible quarters, the Government would give the matter their most earnest consideration.
What is meant by the term "responsible quarters"? Does that mean the "usual channels," because there is a growing suspicion in the minds of many hon. Members that they are the most irresponsible people the House contains?
I think there is a great constitutional issue here. If outside bodies, it does not matter how responsible they may be, start making representations with regard to the calling together of this House, that should be done through the Members of this House and through no one else.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the Government have considered the possibility of making a rule that if a certain number of hon. Members request the summoning of the House, the request will be granted? The question has been raised before, but in this matter we always hear about responsible quarters and all the rest of it; but if a certain definite number is fixed, and if that number of signatures are obtained to a request for the meeting of the House, I think the Government ought to be ready to meet that request. I do not expect to get an answer to-day, but I want the assurance of the Leader of the House that the Government, in considering this thorny question, will see whether it is not possible in the future for some such arrangement to be made.
The Government are anxious to preserve the maximum of flexibility in this matter. If it were necessary for Members to go round and collect signatures from people all over the country in order to get a sufficient number, it would be very likely to delay their representations to the Government. I think it is better to leave it as it is; if responsible sections of opinion, responsible bodies in the House, or responsible Members of the House, make representations, the Government will consider them very carefully.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in making his statement, said that the House' would be recalled if it were necessary to make some communication to Members of Parliament. Will he take notice also of the fact that the country expects that the House should be called together, in order to be reassured that the House is being consulted if a condition of grave emergency arises, as it may very well do in connection with the operations in Russia at the present time? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman undertake to give consideration to that aspect of the matter, to reassure the people of this country that the House is in Session to consider grave matters?