Owing to the general interest in this Question I have been given permission to make this short statement in the absence of my right hon. Friend.
His Majesty's Government have been giving careful attention to this matter, and I am glad to be able to say that the transport position is such that it is now possible to afford facilities for travel to France which, the Government hope, will be satisfactory to hon. Members. In the first place, if a delegation of Members of Parliament of any party should be invited by a corresponding political party in France to meet them, the hon. Members invited will be given facilities to travel by air, subject, of course, to military requirements. Secondly, a limited number of air and sea-rail passages will be made available each week for hon. Members who wish to visit France. These places will be distributed by ballot under arrangements which are being made in consultation with Mr. Speaker. Detailed information can be obtained through the usual channels. It will, of course, be necessary for each hon. Member travelling under the latter scheme to apply individually for an exit permit and a French visa in the usual way, and make his own arrangements for accommodation in France.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that the accommodation situation in Paris particularly, and in France generally, is very serious indeed, and that there is also the question of obtaining rations? Could the Foreign Office do anything towards arranging accommodation for any British visitors who obtain the necessary permits to proceed to France, either going to Paris or to any other parts?
In view of the fact that this is undoubtedly a Government decision, may I ask whether it means that the Government have turned down the suggestion of sending to France a delegation representing the House of Commons; and can my right hon. Friend say whether, in fact, permission has been given to Members of Parliament to go to France since this matter was first raised in the House of Commons?
That is an entirely different matter. Here we are merely concerned with the question which has been raised of whether Members who wish to go to France on their own affairs, whatever these may be, can be granted facilities.
I am sure the House is delighted with the statement made by the right hon. Lady, but may I ask something relating to the mechanics of it? We understand that Members are to ballot for places. Are those places to be nontransferable, because if they are transferable a sort of Parliamentary currency, a sort of exchange and mart, might arise. Do I understand that if a Member is successful in the ballot he is not entitled to transfer his place to anybody else?
The arrangements will be like those of any other ballot, such as the ballot for subjects in Debate; that is, an extra number will be balloted for, and if a Member who has been successful falls out, the next one in the ballot will have the opportunity.
Is it quite impossible for the Government to assist hon. Members to get accommodation, particularly in Paris, in view of the fact that I gather that the Americans have taken most of it? Surely it should be possible to make arrangements for a little accommodation to be alloted to the British.