– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd March 1945.
(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to announce the composition of the British Delegation to the San Francisco Conference.
Yes, Sir. The four principal United Kingdom delegates will be:
May ask the Prime Minister why, in the list which he read out, the Foreign Secretary came first and the Deputy Prime Minister came second? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Foreign Secretary was going to lead the Delegation. Is there any reason why the Deputy Prime Minister should not lead this Delegation?
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would, in the normal practice, lead such a Delegation. The Lord President of the Council would not in ordinary circumstances take the lead of the Foreign Secretary in this matter. The title of Deputy Prime Minister is a courtesy title and one which has no constitutional authority at the present time. I may say that in this Government, while it lasts—I do not know how long it will last; some would like it to last very much longer, and some people like to fish in troubled waters—
—in this Administration, I say Ministers have not been engaged on a meticulous pushing of their personal claims and questions of etiquette. It was discussed with my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council and he entirely agreed with the arrangement that was made. He agreed to it because he is not a self-seeking man and always tries to play the game and do the best he can, which is very much to his honour. I shall always assert that—except at times when we have special questions of difference.
In view of the large number of Labour Ministers who are included in this Delegation, may we have the assurance of the Prime Minister that no General Election will take place in their absence?
I think that whatever happens we ought to keep it going until after the San Francisco Conference.
The Prime Minister, with his very comprehensive knowledge of constitutional history, will recognise that there was a very long time before the Prime Minister's position itself was known to the British Constitution, and in view of the fact that throughout the war, when the Prime Minister has been absent from this country, the Deputy Prime Minister has acted in his stead, will he explain to the House why, now that the Prime Minister is not going to the San Francisco Conference, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has been active on his behalf, is not on this occasion to be his deputy?
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs holds the Seals of State which make him responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, and the Lord President of the Council—the capacity in which he has elected to go—is not similarly charged under the Constitution.
Is not all this quite consistent with the right hon. Gentleman's declaration at the Conservative Party Conference that the Conservative Party declare that, having got all they wanted in the way of assistance and guidance so far as the war is concerned, they are new going to keep everything which is useful in their hands?
There could hardly be a more unfair and, I may say, a more characteristic utterance than that of the hon. Gentleman. He has done everything in his power to break up this Government. He hopes to gain after its dissolution what he would never gain while national affairs dominated men's minds. Any fair-minded man would say that the Labour Party have had fair representation in this Government.
I am the person responsible for nominating this Delegation, and they have a fair representation in this Delegation. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said so just now. [Interruption.] People have a right to live even if they do not agree with the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). A large proportion, three Labour Members, will be there, and I must say that I think it is a churlish manner to receive an announcement of this kind, in which all my colleagues are in full agreement. I do not mean with all I have said just now, but the statement on the Delegation in which all my colleagues are agreed.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in Order for any hon. Member in this House to impute unworthy motives to another hon. Member such as have been attributed by the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell)?
On the same point of Order. I prefer it that way from the Prime Minister.
Are we to have a discussion in this House before the Delegation goes to San Francisco, as it is important that we should give some lead to the Delegation before they go?