Yes, Sir. I have been in communication with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He regrets that it will not be possible for him or the Foreign Secretary to be in their places for a foreign affairs debate on Thursday. We propose that the debate on foreign affairs should now take place on Friday until 5 p.m., when the House will rise for the Christmas Recess. We would propose to devote Thursday to the consideration of subjects to be raised by hon. Members under the arrangements made by Mr. Speaker which would otherwise have been taken on Friday. I hope that this will meet the general convenience of the House.
Will my right hon. Friend consider whether it would be possible to carry on the debate on Friday until six o'clock rather than five o'clock? [HON. MEMBERS: "Longer."] I do not mind how long the debate is carried on. In view of the immense importance of what is now going on in Paris and what is to be discussed during the debate on Friday, and of the fact that it is unfortunate that it could not be held on a normal day, like Thursday, cannot my right hon. Friend reconsider the position and try to arrange for the debate to last at least until six o'clock or even later? If this is not possible, will my right hon. Friend at least give an assurance that questions that we on this side ask of the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister will be answered?
We have deliberately extended the debate from four o'clock until five o'clock on Friday. We thought that that would be reasonable. In fact, that will give six hours' debate, which is the equivalent of a normal day. By taking the Adjournment debates on Thursday, private Members will get just a little more time. In the circumstances, therefore. I think that we had better adhere to the arrangements we have made, which involve an extra hour.
In reply to the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, it is the invariable practice of Her Majesty's Ministers to answer both their hon. Friends and their opponents in the same way.
We have had a talk with the Opposition through the usual channels, but I will be very glad to hear the views of any hon. Member. The likely form of the debate is that either my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will open the debate and describe what has been happening at the N.A.T.O. conference but that will not preclude a wide-ranging debate on any subject that any hon. Member cares to raise. It will be a wide-ranging debate with, again, one of the Ministers replying at the end.
I did, of course, make an allocation of the time at my disposal between hon. Members who applied to raise subjects on the Adjournment on the assumption that it would be on Friday. Now, the change of business makes it necessary for me to reconsider the matter in view of the circumstances. I do not know that there will be very much more time on Thursday than on Friday, because normally, I expect, there will be a Motion for the House to rise the following day and to adjourn for the Christmas Recess, which may take some time. Then, I understand, there is to be a Royal Commission, which will take some time, also. I must, however, look into the matter. I was told only just before we came into the House that this rearrangement was to be made.
Reverting to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent. South (Mr. Ellis Smith) on Friday's business, are we to gather from what the Leader of the House said that the Government propose that the debate will take place on a Motion for the Adjournment and that the Government do not propose to put down a substantive Motion approving what was done at the N.A.T.O. conference?
The idea is that the debate should take place on the Adjournment, which will give everybody the widest opportunity of joining in the debate. The debate will, therefore, take place in the form I have suggested.