The Business when we meet again will be as follows:
Second Sitting Day—Second Reading of the Prolongation of Parliament Bill and of the Local Elections and Register of Electors Bill.
Third Sitting Day—The Adjournment of the House will be moved, and a Debate will take place on the coal situation.
In view of certain events this week which seem indelicate to mention, and which received considerable prominence in the Press, would my right hon. and learned Friend consider adopting the practice of allowing Members to leave the Chamber for the purpose of securing some refreshment, say, for an hour, and suspending Business for that period?
Various suggestions have been made in the course of the last few days as to how matters could be improved, and I have no doubt that that suggestion will be taken into account by Members as a whole in seeing whether there can be any general improvement.
According to the practice of the House a Motion, notice of which stands on the Paper, is capable of "blocking" the discussion of the subject matter of that Motion on a Motion for the Adjournment. But under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed, before deciding that a discussion is out of Order on this ground, to have regard to the probability of the "blocking" Motion being brought up for debate within a reasonable time. Now, as Members know, the Government have been given control of the entire time of the House. But the Motion on India which might have "blocked" the discussion of the Indian situation on the Motion for the Adjournment has been put down, not by Ministers but by Private Members, and no undertaking has been given by the Government that time will be found for its discussion. I cannot see any probability of its being discussed within a reasonable time, and I must rule, therefore, that it does not in any way prevent the discussion of any subject on the Motion for the Adjournment to-day.
As the Motion referred to stands in the name of some of my hon. Friends and myself, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether there is any different procedure as regards Private Members, if the Government take the whole time, from that which usually exists in peacetime? If a statement is made by the Prime Minister on a subject so vitally important as India is it not better that a Debate should be held with opportunity for a Division, and would not this have been possible if the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House had seen fit to say that it would be taken at an early date after the re-assembly?
I think myself that it would have been more convenient and workmanlike to have had a regular Debate on this matter at a later period in the Session, and I mentioned that fact to some of my hon. Friends. They put their Motion down on the Order Paper largely in answer to a somewhat challenging remark by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), and it was not intended at all to use that procedure in any way so as to disappoint the House. I have been looking up what I said yesterday in the House, and it is quite clear that I did give very considerable encouragement to the idea that if hon. Members were fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, a Debate would take place on India, and as I gather it would be a matter which would cause disappointment and inconvenience if that were not to be the cast:, I do not propose to make any promise or give any undertaking for a future Debate on India which would have the effect of bringing Standing Order No. 9 very unduly prominently to your attention. Therefore, I have no statement to make as to the future of the Debate other than the statement which I made yesterday.
May the House understand from my right hon. Friend that although he does not wish to make a statement that would bring Standing Order No. 9 into undue prominence, it is intended by him that there should at as early a date as possible be a Debate on India followed by a Division, because I am quite certain that it is the wish of the entire House to record their voices on this particular subject?
In these matters many things are relatively important, but there is nothing more important than that there should not be the grievance that some people thought they were going to have a chance of speaking and then some arrangement being made which cut them out. One does not want to get anything in the nature of reproaches of that kind. Although I still have a preference for a Debate at a later stage, I consider that our good relations on the conduct of Business stand in a higher position than the differences between one of these Debates and the other. Therefore, I cannot give any undertaking when or how such a Debate will take place.
I agree with the point that a subject of the importance of the Indian question should have been dealt with on a Government Motion. I think the House has a right to expect that the Government should bring the matter forward as proper Government Business and provide a day for it. Am I to understand that the Prime Minister is now saying that if the House debates the Indian position on the Motion for the Adjournment, he will regard that as a good reason for giving the House a much later opportunity than otherwise would have occurred for a proper Debate on India?
May I put this point to the Prime Minister? Those who know something of India and the East realise the immense publicity value of abuse and the limited publicity value of reasoned thought based on knowledge, and therefore, is it not of immense importance, with a view to getting a comprehensive idea of the feeling of the House, that this matter should be carried to a Division at the earliest possible opportunity?
I can only speak for a very few people in the House, but if having this matter discussed on the Motion for the Adjournment will deny me an opportunity of voting in the House against the Government's policy at an early date, then I, for one, am prepared to forgo to-day's Debate.
May I address a question of a different character to the Prime Minister? Has his attention been called to the proceedings of the House yesterday on Service pay and allowances, and in view of the Lord Privy Seal's statement that the proposals he made yesterday were the Government's last word, will my right hon. Friend be prepared to receive a deputation from hon. Members representing all shades of opinion?
I do not think I should like to give an answer to that question without having had some opportunity of considering the matter. Other Ministers are in charge of this great block of Business for the Government, and I am so frequently adjured not to take too much upon myself, that I hope I may consider the proposal without being held definitely committed.