§ 3.46 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
I beg to move:That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 3rd October; provided that if it is represented to Mr. Speaker by His Majesty's Government that the public interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier time during the Adjournment, and Mr. Speaker is satisfied that the public interest does so require, he may give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and the Government Business to be transacted on the day on which the House shall so meet shall, subject to the publication of notice thereof in the Order Paper to be circulated on the day on which the House shall so meet, be such as the Government may appoint, but subject as aforesaid the House shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to the day on which it shall so meet, and any Government Orders of the Day and Government Notices of Motions that may stand on the Order Book for the 3rd day of October or any subsequent day shall be appointed for the day on which the House shall so meet; provided also that in the event of Mr. Speaker being unable to act owing to illness or other cause, the Chairman of Ways and Means, in his capacity as Deputy-Speaker, be authorised to act in his stead for the purposes of this Resolution.As the House is aware, this Motion is not altogether novel in character. A Motion in a somewhat similar form was first adopted in 1920, when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was Prime Minister, and it has been used on numerous occasions since. It empowers Mr. Speaker, upon representations made to him by the Government, to call the House together at an earlier date than that named in the Motion if it is required in the public interest. It also enables the Government to appoint the business to be taken on the day of meeting, because the special circumstances which might require this power to be put into operation might also make it necessary for the Government to bring forward proposals requiring immediate attention on the part of the House. The terms of the Motion do not lay down any period of notice to be given, and the only thing really is to consider what would be a reasonable time to enable us to reach Westminster. In the past the notice has been as short as 48 hours, which was the case in 1938. The Motion provides that the House shall adjourn until Tuesday, 3rd October, giving a recess of two months. That is a much shorter period than has been usual in recent years, but the reason, I think, is 2426 evident. Our normal business this Session has been interrupted by emergency legislation which has taken a considerable time, and that has necessitated the postponement until the autumn of a considerable amount of business. Therefore, the date of 3rd October has been fixed in order to allow the House to finish off outstanding business and to give time for certain Commons Bills, such as the Criminal Justice Bill, the British Shipping (Assistance) Bill and the two Bills which were presented yesterday, namely, the Loan Facilities and the Food (Defence) Bills, to be considered in another place.
We believe that this date will give an opportunity of starting the new Session well before Christmas, and enabling us to make a good start with legislation in the new programme. On Friday of this week we shall have finished all our essential business and we shall have passed all the emergency legislation which is necessary. We could not possibly adjourn if there were further legislation of an emergency character which we thought it necessary to pass now, but Parliament has dealt with all that we think will be necessary at the present, and we can be assured that the country is ready for any emergency.
The Motion which provides for calling Parliament together earlier than 3rd October leaves responsibility for making the recommendation to Mr. Speaker where it properly belongs, in the hands of the Government, because they alone have full knowledge of all the circumstances. I do not know whether, in the course of the Debate, the right hon. Gentleman intends to suggest that the Government have failed to exercise their powers, for the sake of their own convenience and for avoiding interrogation by the House, but I may point out that the Government's existence is dependent upon their maintaining the approval of this House. There are two reasons which might cause the Government to feel that it was necessary to call the House together during the Recess. One would be that it was necessary to ask the House to pass new legislation which is not at this moment contemplated, or not contemplated to be urgent, and the other, if they desired to have the approval of the House for measures which they had taken or were about to take in order to meet an unexpected situation.
2427 As I have already mentioned, we have had experience of the working of Motions of this character. We know that they are not a mere form, because they have actually been used on no fewer than six occasions, in 1924, 1931, 1932, 1935, 1938 and again in this year, 1939. We have no information which leads us to suppose that it will be necessary to call the House together at any particular moment in a fortnight or three weeks, but certainly if, after the House had adjourned, it were in our minds that circumstances had arisen which brought into play either of the two considerations I have mentioned, we should not hesitate to use our powers accordingly. The assurance which I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the other day when he put a question I repeat, that if the Government were contemplating any important departure from their declared policy they would think it right to give the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion and without waiting for the day appointed for the resumption of the ordinary Session.
It may be convenient if I do not anticipate or attempt to anticipate anything which may be said in support of the Amendments upon the Paper. I shall have, no doubt, an opportunity of speaking again in the course of the Debate in reply to the Amendments, if they are moved
§ 3.56 p.m..
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out "Tuesday, 3rd October," and to insert "Monday, 21st August."
On all sides of the House there is a recognition to-day of the uncertainty of the international situation. The Amendment is upon the Paper because of that uncertainty. The situation, which we cannot, and His Majesty's Government cannot completely, control is, we believe, one which requires vigilance on the part of the British House of Commons. Apart from the feeling of apprehension with regard to the immediate weeks which lie ahead of us, there is a suspicion that, once this House rises, the Government may take the wrong turning. I want to put it quite bluntly. A considerable number of Members of this House, not confined to my colleagues on these benches, do not trust this Government. That is the 2428 root of the matter to-day. Because of that feeling of distrust we have thought it right to ask for an earlier meeting of this House than the Government propose. When I consider the events of the past few days, when I see my hon. Friend the Member for Come Valley (Mr. W. G. Hall) sitting here with a doubled majority, when I learn that at Brecon and Radnor the Government have been handsomely and properly trounced, I think I can say that a large number of our citizens also, like myself, do not trust the Government.
It is proper for us to argue that if the Government merit the trust of Members of this House and of the public they need not fear to meet the House of Commons, put their cards on the table and tell us what the world situation is like, even as early as 21st August. They would welcome an opportunity of meeting this House on 21st August. Hon. Members who sit behind me are naturally apprehensive at the prospect of a gap of two complete months with Parliament dispersed. I think I can speak for Members outside my party when I enter a most emphatic protest against the decision of the Government. The Government are complacent. The Prime Minister's complacency is not shared by my hon. Friends, nor indeed, I imagine, is it shared by hon. Members on the Liberal Benches below the Gangway, nor by a proportion of the Members who sit on the other side of the House. [Hon. Members: "Who are they?"] That matter will be tested in the Division Lobby. We are dealing with a rapidly changing situation, and in a situation of that kind, even if the Government were trusted 100 per cent. I should still think it right that Parliament should meet before the expiration of the two months. I appreciate the fact that the final responsibility for action, right or wrong, or inaction, rests with the Government. I realise the point that the Prime Minister made. But we on this side represent a very substantial portion of the nation, and although after the two recent by-elections it is hard to say how large a portion I should imagine that people who are like minded with us in this matter represent the majority of the people of this country. Those of us who are in opposition have an unanswerable claim to express our views from time to time in this period of grave danger, more 2429 especially if we feel, as we have a right to feel, that the Government are in error.
The Prime Minister last week, when I put a question to him and there was a little interchange across the Floor, deprecated the meeting of the House during the time of a normal Recess, because he said it might indicate to the world that we were in state of jitters. As a York-shireman I am not a jittery person myself. Nor are the people of this country suffering from jitters now, whatever may have been the situation last September. The knowledge that in three weeks' from our rising on Friday Parliament is to meet, would, I believe, not create new apprehensions, but would on the other hand strengthen the spirit of the people of this country and fortify their confidence. If during the two months' gap Parliament were hastily summoned, there would be jitters the world over and that would not be confined to the people of this country. It might be regarded in some quarters as a sign of national weakness. If we met in the normal way in three weeks' time to consider the international situation, who would regard that as a sign of jitters or cowardice? It might have a potent influence on those agencies abroad which are continually looking for signs of weakness on the part of the people of this country. Our recent activities in the air and on the sea have not been regarded as a sign of jitters, and if those activities, the object of which is perfectly clear to the world, I hope, were reinforced by the knowledge that the mother of Parliaments, still respected and still feared by those people who profess to despise it, was keeping a watchful eye on the course of events, I believe that would have a very steadying effect on opinion both at home and abroad.
No one is going to deny that the world is in a state of turmoil. The peace of mankind is threatened, not at one point but at several points. Although the Prime Minister has gone some little way in suggesting that the House would be called together if a change of policy were contemplated, one looks at the situation regarding the negotiations with the U.S.S.R. Those negotiations have dragged on for weeks and months, and what guarantee have we that when our backs are turned the Government will not throw in their hands on this question of a triple alliance or arrangement between us and France and Russia? I am not 2430 saying they will do so, but I am saying that they might. It is this situation that our Amendment is moved to meet, to make quite certain that the Government under one pretext or another are not going to run away from their declared policy.
Danzig has been the subject of questions in this House for some weeks. I think we all realise the disquieting situation there—the increase in the police force, the increase in the Army, the planting of anti-aircraft guns and so forth. The situation is of a kind which might give rise to very serious difficulties. Within the past few days there have been frontier incidents. Quite apart from the will of any man for peace, the greatest danger to-day is an incident. If one of the great personages in Europe is suffering from a bad liver and learns that six German subjects have been shot in Danzig, it only needs such a situation for the world to be at war within 24 hours. No one is going to pretend that Danzig at the present time is a pleasant seaside holiday resort. It happens to be one of the danger spots in Europe. Closely associated with that problem is the question of the Polish loan. I think that some of the Chancellor's answers on this question have been evasive and unsatisfactory. We have had experience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the past, and one does not know whether within the next week or two, if difficulties are not surmounted, he will not throw in his hand on the question of a Polish loan, which is obviously a question of the highest political importance. Then Hen Hitler has always relied on the element of surprise. Our eyes to-day are fixed on Danzig. Suppose that during the dog days, when hon. Members are away on holiday, Herr Hitler turns his eyes to Yugoslavia. What information I have goes to show that the situation there may easily become another danger spot in Europe. What would the Government do about that? We have had no real declaration of policy on that subject, and I cannot trust the Government to make one unless they face us and tell us what that policy really is.
In the Far East, where there has been a certain caution on the part of the Government with regard to its policy, the situation is really one of considerable gravity. In the last few weeks we have seen the Government submitting to one humiliation after another and making 2431 formal protests. How do we know that the Far East is not to be another Munich before the House reassembles on 3rd October? One could give other indications of the dangers through which we are passing at the moment. I submit that in a world like this, with the prospect of war not in one but in several places, it is not reasonable that Parliament should adjourn for two months. I do not say that because I do not want a holiday. I should be delighted to have two months' holiday, and indeed a longer holiday, but after all there are certain public responsibilities which Members of this House are expected to fulfil, and it seems to me to be on the verge of a national scandal that in a situation as critical as it is to-day this House should be calmly asked by the right hon. Gentleman to go away and think about nothing for the next two months. The right hon. Gentleman does not want us to think about anything. We do not know what may happen in the interval. But I have a vivid recollection of what happened last August and September. Day by day after the House had risen the situation in Czecho-Slovakia progressively deteriorated. No one can deny that.
I remember that on occasions my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I, and I believe the Leader of the Liberal party on occasions, saw the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary during those days, and as the Opposition we demanded a meeting of this House on more than one occasion. We were refused it. The House was reassembled eventually to witness a funeral party; it was reassembled when a great people had had its independence taken away from it. There was little point in meeting at that time after the damage had been done. The right hon. Gentleman may say that we could not have altered the situation. I think we might have fortified the spirit of the Government. It is idle for Parliament to fiddle while Rome is burning. What is at the basis of our demand is not that we should be called together to face an accomplished fact; our demand is that, in these times, the House of Commons ought to meet from time to time to consider what the international situation is. It changes from day to day. It is good that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues should know the views of some of us who do not agree with him. I ask 2432 myself these questions in all sincerity: Are the Poles to be let down in the next two months? Is Danzig to be sacrificed? Is the pass to be sold in the Far East? Are any betrayals of this kind to take place during the Recess without public discussion? I believe, myself, that the overwhelming majority of the public of this country would wish Parliament to be alert during this very critical time.
Proposals that have been made for keeping public representatives in active touch with the situation have not found favour in all quarters of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party is suggesting that Parliament should be called on the request of a substantial number of Members. Let me say quite frankly, though I am pleading with what energy I have for an early assembly of Parliament, that I could not myself accept the view that a substantial number of Members should call the House together. The responsibility must lie with the Government. If the Government are determined to rule without the check of freely expressed criticism, admonition and honest advice, and drift into great difficulties, the responsibility is theirs and not ours. We are suggesting to-day an early and, I should hope, frequent reassembly of Parliament, in order that we may play our part in trying to form opinion in this House and opinion outside this House. If the Government reject that advice, I say again that it lies on their heads and not on ours. I would never pretend that we can take away from the Government their primary responsibility, but we can absolve ourselves from responsibility to the people whom we represent. Our demand is that this Assembly shall not scatter to the four winds for two whole months, during which time, because of mistaken action, or because of inaction, or because of doubts in the minds of the public, the die may be cast as between war and peace. I welcome the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, even if he does not concede our Amendment, that, before there is any departure from declared policy, there will be a meeting of this House.
Finally, I say that this is not a time for the by-play of ordinary small party politics, though there are, and will continue to be, fundamental differences between us on matters of policy. I want to assure the House—and I am speaking now for a body of people as responsible 2433 as hon. Members on the other side—I want to assure the House that our primary concern is the great issue of war and peace. It is not because we want to embarrass the Government on details, not because we want to give up a well-earned holiday, but because we care whether it is to be war or peace, and wish to ensure that what knowledge and experience we have to contribute is brought into the common pool of this House, and to ensure so far as we can, with our responsibilities, that no false steps are taken, that we believe that the House ought to continue to play its rightful part in any important decision that might be reached. If the worst comes, which God forbid, it is far better to have a House of Commons that is united on principles than to have a House a large number of patriotic Members of which feel that they have been misled. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider very gravely whether he should not call the House together earlier, not because it indicates our view, but because it will indicate his view about the value of this House of Commons, whose traditions are being threatened by the people who are creating the situation which has led us to put down the Amendment. If the right hon. Gentleman is a good House of Commons man, as I trust he is, I hope he will see the essential reason of the claim that we put forward.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. If I had known that he was not going to persist in the proposal he made last week, that we should have regular meetings every week during the Recess, and that he was going to adopt the proposal which I made, that we should meet on a specific pre-arranged date, I should not, of course, have put down the Amendment proposing 22nd August. There is very little difference, from the point of view of convenience, between the 22nd and the 21st. The 22nd happens to be a Tuesday, which to many hon. Members, especially those from Scotland, is a little more convenient than a Monday, but if the Leader of the Opposition prefers Monday, the 21st, and if that is the general feeling of the House, I shall very gladly support that proposal. As regards my second Amendment, I had intended to move it only in this spirit, that if we could not 2434 get agreement on a date for the reassembly of the House, we should try to explore some other way in which the House could be associated with the grave decisions which the Government may have to make during the Recess. I hope, in the first place, that the Prime Minister may, after all, find himself able to accept the proposal which is now under discussion. If not, I hope that this may not be the end of it, and that we may find some other means of keeping the Government in touch with all schools of thought in this House and with all sections of opinion during the Recess, at a time when our minds are preoccupied with the possibility of grave events.
I agree, of course, and I should be sailing under false colours if I did not make it clear to the House that I agree, with the criticism of the Government which the Leader of the Opposition made in the opening part of his speech. That part of his speech, I thought, though, of course, it was much more eloquent and more trenchant, was rather like the speech which I myself had the opportunity of making on Monday, but it is not the kind of ground on which I want to argue this case to-day, and I do not think it is a ground that would appeal to the House. I think we want to consider the matter from a wider point of view.
This Amendment does not really raise the question of confidence in the Prime Minister and the Government. That is not really at issue. I am not pretending to have that confidence; I hope the Prime Minister will not think that I am; all I am saying is that it is not raised in the proposal which is being brought before impute lack of confidence to supporters of the House. The Prime Minister does no his—I see some of them sitting around me—who from day to day put to him very searching questions on foreign affairs, on China, on Poland, and on many other aspects of policy. He does not impute lack of confidence to them for doing that. On the contrary, he knows that they are only exercising their responsibilities as representatives of great constituencies in this House. My claim is only that we ought to have the opportunity, during the next few months, of exercising those responsibilities from time to time—that we ought not to separate for so long as two months, but that we ought to come back in three weeks to consider 2435 what the situation then is. When I made this proposal last week, the Prime Minsiter said to me, "There is no reason to suppose that there will be a crisis in three weeks' time." Of course I entirely agree, but there are all sorts of other things that we may have to consider then, even if there is no crisis. I am going to mention one or two of them in a few moments. I suggest that we should come back on 21st or 22nd August, that we should consider the situation as it exists then, and that we should then consider on what date we should meet again, perhaps some time about 15th September.
Of course it is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that we all want a holiday, that we all of us feel the urge for a holiday; though I do not think it is quite so true that we have nothing to do during the holiday. Some of us have a good deal to do during that time. I agree, however, with the Leader of the Opposition that at the end of the next three weeks, towards the end of this month, our constituents all over the country will be looking to us, as they were at about the same time last year, and demanding that we should assemble here to discuss the affairs of the nation and see that the country, in a serious situation, comes to no harm. The Prime Minister has repeated to-day a pledge which he gave to the Leader of the Opposition last week at Question Time, that there would be no important departure from declared policy during the Recess. But that does not really carry us any way at all. What is an important departure from declared policy? For example, was Berch-tesgaden a departure from declared policy last year? The decisions taken at Berch-tesgaden set us on that road which, as I said at the time in public, would inevitably, and did in fact, lead Herr Hitler to Prague. Therefore, I say that a mere assurance that there will be no departure in policy does not carry us far enough. We want to know for certain that before grave decisions like that are taken the House of Commons will have a chance to discuss the issues in public here, to inform the people, and to assist in taking the decision which will have to be taken in the name of Great Britain.
What is the case for this Amendment? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for 2436 Epping (Mr. Churchill) one day last week asked the Prime Minister:Does not my right hon. Friend consider that if, during the early days of August, the mobilisation of the German Army is steadily proceeding, it would appear rather incongruous to announce that Parliament has adjourned until 25th October?Actually the date is 3rd October, but I think the Prime Minister would agree that that does not affect the argument. The Prime Minister answered:That is a hypothetical question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July; cols. 1658–9, Vol. 350.]But it is no longer hypothetical. We are now in the early days of August, and the mobilisation of the German Army has continued, and we are assured by newspapers—not those newspapers with alarmist placards of which hon. Members complain, but newspapers of the highest repute, including those which support the Government—that there are 2,000,000 men under arms in Germany. I suggest that there was great pertinence in the question that the right hon. Gentleman put, and that at such a time the House ought not to disperse for so long.
There were two views in the House on Monday on Danzig. One was put by many Members, including myself, and with great force by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), that German military preparations were menacing. The Prime Minister took the opposite view, that there was no cause for undue concern, but yesterday and to-day we read in the "Times," which is a most faithful supporter of the Government, that these military preparations are in fact continuing, that rifles, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns, and even heavy guns with concrete emplacements, are being put into position at Danzig, that the roads to East Prussia are being improved, that bridges are being built across the rivers to improve communications between Danzig and East Prussia, that traps for tanks and armoured cars are being laid in Danzig territory, and that inspections are being carried out in Danzig by high officers of the German Army. The statement that such inspections are being carried out was made last week. It was denied on official authority in Berlin during the week-end. All the more remarkable was it that the "Times" on Monday said that it had 2437 reason to believe, in spite of the denials, that these high officers were there.
The Prime Minister said on Monday that he would not add to the statement that he had made on the situation, but my submission is that the situation has changed, that it has been deteriorating in Danzig since he made that statement. The Prime Minister spoke of the statesmanlike restraint of the Polish Government, but restraint will not save Danzig, and may lead us to the position where we shall be faced with the choice between surrender and war. Restraint did not save the Emperor of Abyssinia or President Benes. When the Prime Minister came back from Berchtesgaden he told us that the levers had been pulled and the machinery could not be stopped. Restraint had been carried so far that there was no choice between surrender or war. That is the situation that we wish to have a chance of averting in future. If only we had previously made arrangements with France and Russia and mobilised the Fleet last year, as many Members were urging the Government to do, we could then have saved peace and saved Czecho-Slovakia.
I have mentioned Danzig and the continued mobilisation of the German Army. Then there is Poland. There have been difficulties over this loan for Poland. I hope the Prime Minister will not retort to me that merely by mentioning them I am raising suspicion and hinting that the Government do not want to assist Poland. That is not what I am doing. [Interruption.] I mentioned what is indeed a fact, which nobody can deny, which is being stated outside this House; and surely we have not got so mealy-mouthed in this House that we cannot mention facts of that kind. We have encountered difficulties over the loan. I am not imputing blame for that, but surely we hope that these difficulties will be overcome, that Poland can be made as strong as possible, so that she can stand up for her rights and deter the aggressor from breaking the peace. If these difficulties are overcome, will not legislation be required in order to enable the loan to be made? Would it not be much better that the House should be meeting automatically in three weeks' time in order that that may be dealt with? There may be a serious and critical situation, in which it might not be helpful for the Prime Minister to summon Parliament specifically in order to make a loan to 2438 Poland for the purchase of military materials. Surely it would be much better that we should be meeting automatically.
Then there is China. The same kind of situation may arise there. Surely we ought to be on the spot at the end of these Tokyo negotiations to deal with the situation that may confront this country. Then there is Russia. So great is the importance that I attach to the conclusion of these negotiations with Russia that I repeat what I have said in this House before, that I do not think we ought to rise before they are completed, because I feel that on their success or otherwise may depend the issue of peace or war.
But certainly, if we are going to rise we ought to be back before the end of August. We ought not to get into the position that we may be summoned back again this year, as we were last year, in order to take that terrible choice between plunging into war or surrendering to the aggressor. We ought to meet at the end of August to consider the situation then, and to decide how soon we should meet again. I feel, for that reason, that it is better to have a definite date. Rather than arranging to meet at intervals, let us decide to meet at the end of August, to consider the situation as it is then and to decide when the public interest demands that we should have another sitting.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
I must say I regret the terms of the Government's Motion, and, although not altogether for the same reasons, I find myself endorsing the pleas which have been advanced from both the Opposition parties in the House. But I still hope that the Prime Minister has not said his last word on this subject. It is in that hope that I venture to offer a few reasons for my opposition to the Motion. This House is sometimes disparaged in this country, but abroad it counts. Abroad, the House of Commons is counted, and especially in dictator countries, as a most formidable expression of the British national will and an instrument of that will in resistance to aggression. "Surely that is a fact which must be admitted. The dictators themselves have not been slow to notice that minority opinion in this House has seemed in one way to influence the course of Government action. It is in accordance with minority opinion in this House that 2439 we have come together upon a foreign policy upon which all are agreed, a foreign policy which the two dictator States deeply deprecate. Therefore, I say that we count deeply in their thoughts.
If you wish to check this by examination, see how oddly they have timed various strokes which have been made in the recent past for occasions when the House has risen and the Members are on their holidays. Take the latest of all, the Albanian outrage at Easter. It was nicely timed for the moment when it was known that Parliament was scattered, when the Ministers were scattered—and when the Mediterranean Fleet, unfortunately, was scattered, too. They timed it for that purpose. Then look at last year, when we parted in similar circumstances to the present. Until then there were no suspicious troop movements in Germany. It was only then that there began all these movements for the pretended peaceful purposes of a local manoeuvre. It may sound rather a vain thing for a Member of Parliament to say, but it seems to me that this House is a recognised addition to the defences of Great Britain, that we are safer when the House is sitting, and that the power and will of this House count very much, and, properly commanded, will reinforce the power of His Majesty's Government. Therefore, it seems to me that it would be regrettable if we, as it were, go out of action just at a time when the situation is becoming most acute.
I would not press this argument so far as to suggest that if the House goes on sitting night and day there will be no crisis. That would, indeed, by exaggerating the argument, but I have the feeling that things are in a great balance, and that even minor matters of a favourable character cannot be neglected if they can be thrown in on the right side of the scale. Therefore, I should regret it very much if we were now to pass a Resolution scattering ourselves to the winds till October. This is an odd moment for the House to declare that it will go on a two months' holiday. It is only an accident that our summer holidays coincide with the danger months in Europe, when the harvests have been gathered, and when the powers of evil are at their strongest. 2440 The situation in Europe is graver than it was at this time last year. The German Government have already 2,000,000 men under arms actually incorporated in their Army. When the new class joins before the end of August more than 500,000 will be added to this number automatically. All along the Polish Frontier from Danzig to Cracow there are heavy massings of troops, and every preparation is being made for a speedy advance. There are five German divisions in a high state of mobility around Breslau alone. The roads, as the Leader of the Liberal party mentioned, towards Poland through Czecho-Slovakia are being raised to the highest condition. Quarries are being opened for material, and so forth, by enforced Czecho-Slovak labour.
I have been told—I may be wrong. but I have not always been wrong—that many of the public buildings and of the schools in large parts of Czecho-Slovakia, Bohemia certainly, have been cleared and prepared for the accommodation of wounded. But that is not the only place. There is a definite movement of supplies and troops through Austria towards the East. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition put his finger upon another danger spot which might easily be exchanged for the one which now occupies our thoughts. There is the strained situation in the Tyrol, most significant as indicating the tenseness of the situation, where Herr Hitler has been willing to do the thing which must have caused him the greatest wrench in order to make sure of his Italian confederates. All these are terribly formidable signs. And on our side, too, and among our Allies, are great preparations. The Fleet is largely mobilised. We congratulate the Government on the timely step they have taken, and we support them in it. As many men as can possibly be accommodated in camps are in training, and the anti-aircraft gunners are at their stations. Is this, then, the moment that we should separate and declare that we separate until the 3rd October? Who can doubt that there is going to be a supreme trial of will power, if not indeed a supreme trial of arms. At this moment in its long history, it would be disastrous, it would be pathetic, it would be shameful for the House of Commons to write itself off as an effective and potent factor in the situation, or reduce whatever strength it 2441 can offer to the firm front which the nation will make against aggression.
Then, of course, it is asked, "Do you trust the Prime Minister?" The Leaders of both Oppositions made it perfectly clear that they did not trust him, but that is not the position of some of those who are anxious that an arrangement should be reached by which Parliament will not pass entirely out of being for so long a time; that is not the position which we on this side of the House adopt. I, personally, accept what the Prime Minister says, and when he makes solemn public declarations I believe that he will do his best to carry them out. I trust his good faith in every respect, but that does not really dispose of the whole issue. It might be that his good faith was in no way in question, either about the rising of the House or other matters at all, but there might be a difference of judgment. I use the word "judgment" with some temerity, because my right hon. Friend twitted me some time ago about that notorious defect which I have in my composition. I have not looked up all his, own declarations in any captious spirit, and I will not pursue that this afternoon, but it is not quite clear that the judgment which the Prime Minister might form upon the facts as they unfolded would be a legitimate and natural topic upon which differences of opinion would arise between us.
Take, for instance, a very late example, this question of Danzig. The Leader of the Liberal party stated how grievous the situation was in Danzig, and my right hon. Friend said that the situation was exaggerated. It is only two days ago, but now we read in the "Times" that the official Gazette of Poland has made a statement of the facts in Danzig which goes much further than the statement put forward by the Leader of the Liberal party which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister thought was exaggerated. So there may be differences, quite honest differences, upon the emphasis itself and upon the facts, and it is in respect of these differences which arise when men are working on the same policy, and when they are agreed that an interchange of opinion in the House of Commons would be from time to time most desirable. It is a very hard thing, and I hope it will not be said, for the Government to say to the House, "Begone! Run off and play. Take your gas masks with you. Do not 2442 worry about public affairs." Leave them to the gifted and experienced Ministers who, after all, so far as our defences are concerned, landed us where we were landed in September last year, and who, after all—I make all allowances for the many difficulties—have brought us in foreign policy at this moment to the point where we have guaranteed Poland and Rumania, after having lost Czechoslovakia, and not having gained Russia.
That is, indeed, a hard, an unreasonable and unnatural proposal, especially when the House is agreed upon the basis of policy, and when it has a difference with the Government it is because it desires to urge them more vigorously forward and not to hinder them in the policy which they have declared. I did hope that my right hon. Friend would have taken exactly the opposite point of view, and that the roles would be reversed. I should have expected to see him come down to the House, and, at that Box, assume an air of exceptional gravity, and say that he regretted that he had to make a demand on the good will and patience of the House, and upon its public spirit and that the circumstances were such that he could not bear the whole responsibility for months at a time without recourse to the sense of the Commons and without contact with his colleagues in the House of Commons, and that, therefore, he must ask the House to come back on frequent occasions during the interval. Then it would have been for the Opposition to say, "Of course it is very serious, but if the Prime Minister demands it on a policy on which we are agreed, it will be our duty to comply with his request."
How would it be if we came back in three weeks' time, before the end of August so that we could all be in complete agreement? [An Hon. Member: "Why adjourn for three weeks?"] I should think it would be a pretty safe thing to adjourn for a fortnight or three weeks now. [An Hon. Member: "Let us go on."] Surely we are not going to ask that we should stay here night and day, or that we should never come back. That is far too narrow a dilemma. Lord Balfour used to say that this is a singularly ill-contrived world, but it is not so ill-contrived as that. I would like to endorse the argument that it will not be so easy to recall Parliament once it has been dispersed. [An Hon. Member: "Why?"] I am going to tell you. I 2443 have to tell hon. Gentlemen a lot. I am always ready "he reason is that events move on from day to day, and it is very difficult to say at what point a situation is being created which requires the recall of Parliament. Moreover, the recall of Parliament in the present circumstances will denote a situation of the gravest emergency, because the Fleet is already mobilised. The recall of Parliament will mean in all probability that something has occurred which brings us right up against the supreme decision.
The Leader of the Opposition in his speech made what was, I think, a non sequitur in his argument, and, pointing at the Prime Minister, said that the responsibility lies upon him. But I think it would be a mistake to add this responsibility to all the others which my right hon. Friend so stoutly and valiantly bears. It is a very invidious responsibility, when there is a great division of opinion, as there is, in the country, and when there are all sorts of suspicions which he considers are unworthy, but which are sincere in many ways, when there will be all kinds of agitations, and when troubles occur, to have Parliament summoned. It is a needless responsibility, when, on the other hand, the summoning of it involves the declaration of an emergency so serious that it may well hamper the delicate negotiations which at the last moment might be in progress. I should think that it would be a matter of foresight and prudent convenience to have had a day at the end of August up your sleeve when there would be no crisis. If the date were the 22nd or 25th August, or whatever it might be, then, if all is well, very few people need come. The Ministers need not attend. [Interruption.] Certainly, if all is well. [Laughter.] Do not laugh. After all, we are all in the same boat. I noticed a sort of spirit on these benches to try and run this matter through on ordinary party loyalty, but we are not going to get through these troubles on the basis of party loyalty and calling everyone who differs unpatriotic. If that sort of atmosphere were created I am sure that it would be absolutely swept away by the wind from the country.
I am very sensitive to the atmosphere of the House, and I think that the effort ought to be to try to bring us as much together as possible, and not to imagine that people will be deterred from saying 2444 what they intend to say at any time because it causes unpopularity, or because there is a sort of organised scowl directed at them. I think it would be a very wise and prudent step from the point of view of national administration to have this date which you could put your hand on if needed and, if not, it would pass off as nothing but a needless formality. I suggest and hope that that may be weighed and considered by my right hon. Friend.
There is only one thing more that I wish to say, and it is in the nature of an appeal to my right hon. Friend. He wrote a letter in a recent election—Monmouthshire, I think—appealing for national unity. What does national unity mean? It surely means that reasonable sacrifices of party opinions, personal opinion and party interest should be made by all in order to contribute to the national security. Here is an opportunity for my right hon. Friend to take a quite important step to put himself in a better relation with those forces in the country who lie outside the ranks of his numerous and faithful adherents. This is not an occasion when the House should part with reproaches and with difference of opinion. On the contrary, we ought to part as friends who are facing common problems and resolved to aid each other as far as it is possible. I hope, indeed, that my right hon. Friend will even at this moment not refuse to take into consideration the opinion of the House as a whole, including minorities in the House, and, if they want to meet again at the end of the month, endeavour to meet them upon that point. If he were to do so now, I tell him here that he would render a great service to his country, because this country cannot be guided through its present difficulties except by the Leader of the Conservative party, and the Leader of the Conservative party will never be chosen from any quarter except by that party itself. It is, therefore, necessary for him to do his utmost to conciliate other opinion, now so widely estranged, and make himself the true leader of the nation as a whole.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
There is an earnest desire on the part of the House to give the world a feeling of confidence that we are ready to face any danger. It may be said that Members of Parliament are wanting a holiday. I agree that we are all wanting 2445 a holiday, but I regard the affairs of State as of far greater importance than our own personal desires. It is because of that that I want the Prime Minister to realise what it means when Members on these benches are asking him to fix a date when Parliament shall meet again. If things go right, what greater pleasure could the Prime Minister have when we meet again than to be able to announce that he had an agreement with Soviet Russia and that tension was easier throughout Europe? If, on the other hand, we depart to-morrow with no understanding at all, there will be a feeling of grave apprehension in the mind of every one of us. When I address meetings I am asked, "How is it that Parliament can see its way to adjourn for two or three months when you are telling us that there is grave unrest in all parts of the world?" If we assure them that the Prime Minister has told us that he will call us together if anything arises, they will say, "What about last September? What happened then? You know you ought to have been called together much earlier than you were."
That is the position we have to face in the country, and the Prime Minister ought to take note of what we think on the back benches in making this appeal. I can understand his not wanting to take advice from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)or from the Leader of the Opposition, but when ordinary rank-and-file Members come to him with this appeal, knowing what is happening, I think some regard ought to be given to it. I should much prefer to continue my holiday and make arrangements for a month or two months' rest, but I cannot, with my mind in the state it is, enjoy the holiday as I should like. I believe I could come back in a fortnight's time and get an assurance from the Prime Minister that things were going on all right or, if not, and we had arrived at a point when something required to be done, he would know that he had the united backing of the whole House of Commons. It would be a message to the aggressors, who would realise the feeling prevailing in a united House of Commons. It is because of that that I ask the Prime Minister to consider the appeal that we are making, in order to give that confidence to the country and to Members of Parliament to which they are entitled.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Sir Herbert Williams
I am one of those who are at little surprised at the Amendment and at the arguments which have been adduced in support of it. The only people who will be disappointed if it is carried will be those who voted for it.
§ Mr. Bellenger
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in imputing motives to the Movers of the Amendment?
§ Sir H. Williams
From time to time when I speak in this House I am attacked. I expect it. But I get a bit of my own back. I do not know why people should be so indignant when I say something which I know to be true, because I have ascertained it through the usual channels—my own usual channels. Therefore, I am a little surprised that people should be so indignant about something that does not matter. But there is something of constitutional importance which, I think, must be said. Parliament does not govern Britain. That is the duty of His Majesty's Ministers, who-ever they may be. I have often, when lecturing on Parliament, explained that the primary function of Parliament is to stop Ministers governing Britain. That is why we were created. It is a sheer delusion to think that we govern Britain. That is the function of Ministers, and it is a great mistake ever to do anything which diminishes Ministerial responsibility. I am very surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who has had more Ministerial experience than any living person, should desire to diminish Ministerial responsibility. I listened with great care to his speech, in the course of which he complimented me on an office to which I have not been elected. That does not matter much, except that I am glad to receive his compliments on any subject, because a compliment from him is a compliment indeed. When he was interrupted he said he was not suggesting that we should sit day and night, but his argument was that we should be continuously in session from Monday to 2447 Friday every week. If it is not that, it means nothing.
A moment before I came in, I am informed, he gave us the example of Easter, when the outrage of Albania took place. That was a 10-day Adjournment. But he is willing to consent to 21 days. I do not think he is quite up to his usual style. After all, are these right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are so anxious that we should not adjourn notable for their good attendance in the House? No one has a profounder respect for the right hon. Gentleman than I have. I regret that he does not occupy one of the high positions of State at this moment, apart from anything else because, if he did, he would not have made the speech that he has just made. But there are much more substantial reasons. I have always regarded him as one of the great outstanding personalities to whom the country is under a permanent debt of gratitude. But I do not agree with him about everything. If he is willing to consent to a 17 days' adjournment on the ground that a 10 days' adjournment had a tragic consequence, I do not quite see his logic. What is going to be the effect on the public if the Amendment is carried, and what is going to be the effect on the dictators? They will say the British people have the wind up so much that their Parliament dare not separate. My family left on Monday for their holiday and, as far as I know, they did not take their gas masks with them. I am going on Friday, I hope, to join them, and I have no intention of taking mine.
Let us assume that we have to meet on some day in August. What will happen? Some right hon. Gentlemen will make speeches of interminable length. I once referred to right hon. Gentlemen who treated the House as a place where they bow in, blow off and blow out, and they do not always honour us by listening to what we may say subsequently. So far as the Leader of Liberal party is concerned, he will be much happier in the House of Tongue than in the House of "tongues. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) will appreciate the point, but the bulk of hon. Members do not know that the House of Tongue is in the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman. That is why possibly he has got the gift of 2448 tongue, and plenty of it, when he arrives here. It is notorious that the Leader of the Liberal party is the longest speaker in the House and that he deprives a great many Private Members of their opportunity of speaking.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I may tell the hon. Member straight that what he has just said is not true. I cannot deprive hon. Members of their opportunities. I only speak when I am called by Mr. Speaker.
§ Sir H. Williams
I am not referring to when the right hon. Gentleman is called, but when he ceases talking. Mr. Speaker can only determine when the right hon. Gentleman gets up.
§ Sir H. Williams
Mr. Speaker determines when the right hon. Gentleman is called, but the right hon. Gentleman himself, unless he is guilty of tedious repetition, determines when he sits down. [Hon. Members: "Get on."] I notice that hon. Members opposite are telling me to get on with it. In a rather extensive experience of addressing meetings attended by those who vote for hon. Members opposite, I always notice that when I am told to get on with it, I am saying something that they do not like. Therefore, hon. Members opposite have not quite grown out of their early training. They resent criticism although they are very fond of flinging it at other people. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell),who is a fairly fierce critic, ought not to get too cross. We are approaching the holidays, when a certain spirit of good will should prevail even in his rather caustic mind. I really do not know—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite are getting rather annoyed.
If we meet on 21st August, is it the proposal that we should proceed with the uncompleted business of the Session, or is the object merely that we should come back with no agenda and have a rambling Debate on the Motion, "That this House do now adjourn"? Is it the proposal that 615 people are to be summoned here for what may be no purpose at all—a meeting without an agenda? I always thought the right hon. Member for Epping was an accomplished administrator. Has he ever yet attended 2449 a meeting at which there was no business to be discussed when the people arrive? I wonder what sort of a reception he would get if he ever indulged in that sort of thing. I see the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) has on the agenda for 3rd October that we should discuss the Criminal Justice Bill. Which part of the family am I to believe? The right hon. Member for Epping wants to discuss the question, "That this House do now adjourn," while the hon. Member for Norwood wants to discuss something quite different. Before they decide which way they are going to vote—I suppose they are going to vote the same way—they might decide what they are voting about. If they cannot determine what they want, it is difficult for me to decide what I shall do about it. It is a good idea to have a measure of unanimity about that sort of thing.
What is behind this proposal? Is it that we should meet on 21st August? Not in the least. It arises out of the anger of certain people because they do not sit on that Front Bench. [An Hon. Member: "You are trying to get there."] No. Although I think I am much better than some who sit on the Front Bench, it does not make me cross. I do not suffer from any particular kind of malice.
§ Sir H. Williams
It does not worry me in the least. I speak against the Government when I think they are in the wrong and I speak for them when I think they are right. I have always been a perfectly free and independent Member, as everybody knows. When I think the Government are right and some of their critics are wrong, I see no reason why I should not attack the critics. Nobody can say that I have ever been subservient to anybody. If only hon. Members knew what the Chief Whip says sometimes to me, they would know that that is true.
What we have exhibited to-day is malice directed against the Prime Minister 2450 because on 28th September last he rendered a great service to humanity. We should not be meeting here to-day if he had not done that. That malice continues. I think the Prime Minister was right then, and I think he is right now, and it is because I think that this Amendment is really an attack upon him that I am going to support him in the Lobby.
§ Mr. John Morgan
Will the hon. Member accept the fact that hon. Members are actuated by the motive that Herr Hitler characteristically uses these periods for his expeditions?
§ Sir H. Williams
I do not doubt that in the least, and I rejoice that His Majesty's Government have now attained a degree of preparation which will make dictators hesitate before they try on any tricks; but that does not alter one word of the speech that I have made.
§ 5.22 p.m.
I was merely indulging in intelligent anticipation. The hon. Member for South Croydon has delivered a speech which seems to have come from a mind over which has been dropped a dark curtain. He tried to limit the events of last summer to the events of the last week or fortnight of September. How, in logic, can he defend the political proposition that we have recently done for Colonel Beck what we declined to do a year ago for Dr. Benes? The hon. Member made an astonishingly clever speech in which he advanced the constitutional theory, which I had never heard before, that the House of Commons should never do anything to diminish Ministerial responsibility. Where would such an argument conceivably end? It would mean that we should never criticise the Executive.
§ Sir H. Williams
No. There must be some misunderstanding. Ministers are responsible for the administration of their Department, and if at any time we think they are not competent we are entitled to say so; but the responsibility is theirs, and theirs alone.
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for anticipating the next 2451 stage of my argument. I was about to say that this House is responsible for granting or withholding from the Executive their power to govern the country. I must ask the patience of the House for about 10 minutes while I state briefly the misgiving that I feel about the Prime Minister's Motion to-day. In his speech the Prime Minister asked whether the House need have any fear that the Government would fail to exercise their powers of calling the House together. He said that the Executive would call the House together for any fresh measures the Executive had in mind, or to approve any measures which they had taken. I would submit this simple proposition, that when this country has been bound by the Executive by any fresh undertaking or committed to any new treaty, there is nothing left for us to do but to protest, if we disagree with what has been done. There was nothing else that was possible for those who disagreed with the policy which led up to the Munich Agreement at the end of September but to protest, and for those who approved, to ratify it. This House cannot undo what has already been done. Unless we are to condemn ourselves as a useless body we must control the event as far as we can, and mould the future. That seems to me to be the proper function of Parliament. A little time ago in the country, not in another place, a very presumptuous Peer suggested the shutting up of the House of Commons for a period of months. If that suggestion were not so pitiably stupid I should almost stigmatise it as seditious, and as disloyal to the free and representative spirit of Britain as would be an insult to the Royal Family. I hope these observations will reach the eye and ear of Lord Bayford.
I do not often have occasion to offer gratitude to the usual channels, and I trust that those on the Front Bench who represent the usual channels will give me their attention, because I am going to offer to them my thanksgiving that this vote to-day has not been made the occasion of a three-line Whip. Therefore, the House will assume that it is not a question of major confidence, although the hon. Member for South Croydon did try to make it a matter of confidence. He based his argument upon the ground of confidence. I have no doubt that other hon. Members—I exempt the Prime 2452 Minister from this statement—will argue it as a matter of confidence in His Majesty's Government that we should support the Prime Minister's Motion. I would suggest that there is no logical limit to such a plea. It could be advanced as a question of confidence that we should vote in favour of the permanent suspension of Parliament, I submit to hon. Members in all parts of the House that the doctrine of official infallibility has no place in the theory of our Constitution. Any one who fails to grasp that proposition does not understand the spirit of our free democracy.
This is not a foreign affairs Debate and I shall take the greatest possible care to be relevant in my next sentence. Two days ago I paid to the Prime Minister a very sincere tribute on his strength of character. If my hon. Friends in my own party wish me to repeat that tribute, I will readily do so, wholeheartedly. But no one will deny that to-night we may be standing upon the edge of war, and the way to prevent war, as I said in other words last Monday, is to convince Hitler of our will and our intention to resist. I am bound to say that I should be less apprehensive about Hitler's state of mind if our Government—the Government which is now asking for exclusive control for the next two or three months over the affairs of this country and the Commonwealth of which this country is the pivot—included some of those men whom Dr. Goebbels and Herr Hitler describe as "war mongers." That epithet is one of their most trite methods of weakening our will in Great Britain and of fostering the very pacifism which may destroy the British Empire.
That reconstruction of the Government, which is widely desired throughout the country, without distinction of party, has not been carried out. It is true that the power of resistance of His Majesty's Government during the next two or three months, when this House will be up, has been lately recruited by the elevation of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) and the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh). To those two hon. Members I offer my unqualified and unenvious congratulations. I do not know how Hitler has been impressed by that reconstruction of our Government. The interventions in foreign affairs by the hon. Member for Huddersfield have been distinguished by insistence upon Article 19 2453 of the Covenant. As for the hon. Member for Dundee, she won for herself undying renown and official gratitude in the Perth and Kinross by-election before she became a member of this reconstituted Government, which is to control our affairs for the next two or three months while the House is up, by her eloquent description of the horrors of modern warfare. I will only say this—that this spirit may have defeated a duchess but it has not won, nor will it keep a great Empire. This reconstruction has not come about so we are asking that the Government should do the next best thing.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member cannot deal with the reconstruction of the Government.
Very well, Sir, I will now reconstruct my speech. As this reconstruction has not come about we must do the next best thing in the very anxious circumstances by which this Island is now surrounded, and that is to keep Parliament in active being. In the few moments still left to me may I examine the argument which was used by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker)—that we need a holiday. Of course, all of us want a holiday but I suggest that not all of us need one, which is a very different thing. Our duties in this House are exacting but they are not exhausting. As perhaps one of the least tranquil and less easily appeased of the Members of the House, I recognise the physical disadvantages and inconveniences of the Palace of Westminster if our sojourn here is prolonged continuously for months. We have to suffer late nights and an obstinately close atmosphere, perpetual but friendly collisions with the "usual channels," food which seems strangely bereft of taste or freshness, and very often spend weeks in a futile attempt to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, but that is the very worst I suggest that can be said about the immense and indescribable privilege which all of us enjoy of serving in the first Assembly of the world, where on the whole reason and compromise prevail—and I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to reach a compromise with those of us who do not want to separate for two months—and where friendliness so often softens the bitterest partisan asperities
. To-night Parliament is being invited to suspend completely its animation for two 2454 months, which the blindest and most deaf of individuals knows beyond question are going to be the two most critical months for a quarter of a century. I ask my hon. Friends to recall, casting aside all matters of Parliamentary and partisan repartee, that when this House was up Hitler marched on to Munich, where the door was opened to him to Prague, and that when this House was up Mussolini raped Albania. If some of us need a rest I suggest that the younger men at least might take some of the responsibility of keeping Parliament together. I really hope the House will take the suggestion seriously. I see no excuse at this critical moment in our history for men under 50 going for a long holiday of two months. To-day we are not at peace—the Prime Minister has told us that. At any moment this war of nerves, of which the dictator countries are boasting, may develop into a war of guns. Between 1914 and 1918 there was no holiday of two months for fit men. They did their duty during those years continuously, and to-night, thanks to them, we are free. To-day, on all sides the men of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force are moving to their war stations and I hope that fact is getting home to the rulers of Germany. I cannot see in what manner of principle our duty differs from theirs. I suggest to the House that to sustain Britain's pledged word and safeguard our strategic security this House ought to stand to its post.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
I do not propose to keep the House for more than a few moments because most of the arguments which can be used for and against the Motion have already been heard. It is a very strange proceeding on the part of the Government to ask the House of Commons to adjourn for two months at the very moment when industry throughout Great Britain is being put on a war basis. If the miners and steel workers and people engaged in all our industrial works took the same frivolous view of the international situation they would say that if Parliament is entitled to have two months' holiday now there can be no reasonable ground for them to work overtime in the factories. It is strange, indeed, that the House of Commons should be asked to arrive at this decision at a time when we are exhorting the people throughout the country to make unpre- 2455 edented efforts to put our defences in order.
Let me deal with the argument which is used by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). The foreign policy which the Government are adopting has been taken from this side of the House. It is a foreign policy to which hon. Members opposite were fundamentally opposed, but which they have now adopted from us. What is the suggestion? It is that the House of Commons should be dispersed for two months, and that the conduct of the country should be under the control of the Government, over whom hon. Members opposite have the most control. What they are really saying is that the people who should run the country for the next two months are the Conservative party. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to represent the argument in terms that it is the Government—but it is their Government. They are telling the country that for two months, by common consent the two most critical months in the history of Britain, Great Britain should be governed by the Conservative party.
§ Sir H. Williams
Does the hon. Member remember the Adjournment of Parliament in August, 1931, on the eve of one of the greatest financial crises? Were any steps taken then for Parliament to resume on 21st August?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member is really not doing himself justice. First of all, there was no crisis in 1931. At the time of the Adjournment of Parliament in 1931 there was no crisis; in fact, if there was a crisis then such as the hon. Member suggests, disastrous to the country, his party was so unpatriotic as to leave the conduct of affairs in the hands of those they criticised and did not support. Did they make any attempt in 1931 to keep Parliament sitting? Of course they did not. The answer is that they did not think there was a crisis, or if they thought there was that they would rather have the crisis than prevent it.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
When the hon. Member says that the country is to be governed for the next two months by the Conservative party, does he not really mean by His Majesty's Ministers?
§ Mr. Bevan
I mean no such thing. His Majesty's Government derive their power 2456 from the majority of the House of Commons, and the majority of the House of Commons is composed of the Conservative party. It is, in fact, a Conservative party Government. If that is the actual position—and I do not think hon. Members in any part of the House will seriously deny it—then members of the Conservative party in this House dare to take to themselves the right to decide upon the issues of peace and war in the course of the next two months. They think that they can mobilise the full spiritual and material power of the country by what will be only a party decision. If it be that the events of the next few months will lead this country into war against the Totalitarian States, ought not that decision to be made by the united representatives of the people?
The argument has been used more than once that it is not the last act that matters but the slow drift of a number of executive actions, of which the last action is merely the inevitable consequence. It is to control the development of policy that we want the House to meet. Surely the Conservative party are not so bovine as to put party loyalty before national interests and resist the proposal we make. If we are engaged on a national policy the House of Commons should be the national and united instrument for carrying it out. I hope that the Prime Minister will not be obstinate. Strength does not consist of being obstinate about small matters, and I hope he will decide to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood).
There is one other consideration which I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind. Some of us represent industrial constituencies. It is very important to realise that the division of representation in this House follows very largely territorial areas. It would not be so important if when you looked at an electoral map of England you found that the supporters of the Government and the supporters of the Opposition were peppered right through the country, but, in point of fact, there are large blocks of Great Britain represented in this House by Members of the Opposition, and areas, very many of them sparsely populated, which are represented by members of the Government.
§ Mr. Bevan
It will not be represented next time. At any rate, I give hon. Members the point that they could not have a majority in this House unless they had large industrial blocks behind them, but it docs not invalidate my argument. There are the areas of South Wales, Durham and Yorkshire and industrial Scotland, and other big patches of Britain, in which there is no supporter of the Government in this House. If we seriously want to mobilise the spiritual and material resources of Great Britain can you safely deprive these areas of any representative during these critical months? Can you safely come to a decision which will have the effect of disfranchising these areas in such an important matter as the issue of peace or war?
It seems to me that hon. Members opposite are looking at the matter very frivolously. The suggestion is that the boys in our pits, steelworks, and factories should be ready to give their lives for democracy, the expression of which is this institution, but that this institution should be dispersed for two months. It is fantastic. If the House declares that its existence is so unimportant as virtually to leave issues of life and death in the hands of the Prime Minister, how can you expect people to regard the House so seriously that they are prepared to lay down their lives to defend it? It seems to me that hon. Members opposite are placing narrow party considerations in front of the vital interests of the country. If the Prime Minister seriously intends to carry out the policy to which he has pledged himself, if he believes that behind that policy it is necessary to arm himself with the consolidated forces of Great Britain, he should provide all the people of the country with an opportunity of identifying themselves with that policy, so that a decision, when taken, can represent the united voice of Great Britain, and not be a party decision arrived at by people in many of whom the country has no confidence.
§ 5.47 P.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
My hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) was good enough to thank the Prime Minister because there was no three-line Whip this afternoon. I confess that I was a little bit surprised to hear the hon. Member do that, because I always thought that as 2458 a matter of principle he voted against the Government on a three-line Whip, but supported the Government on every other occasion. Be that as it may, it is true to say that the Amendment is a Motion of no confidence in the Government, whether there be a three-line Whip or not. What does it amount to? Surely, it amounts to this, that, unless the House is prepared to agree to trust the judgment of the Prime Minister to call Parliament together at the proper time, if such a time should arrive, the House does not trust the judgment of the Prime Minister, and if it does not, then that is a Vote of Censure on the Prime Minister, and he goes.
§ Mr. Raikes
I can give a very simple answer to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). He need only show his constituents the speeches made by Members of his own Front Bench. Those speeches always amount to this, that you cannot trust the Prime Minister because he may let down some foreign country and thereby prevent the people of this country from going to war. [Hon. Members: "Nonsense."] Hon. Members may say "Nonsense," but time after time we have heard from the Opposition Front Bench criticisms of the Prime Minister on this ground—this man went to Munich, this man betrayed Czecho-Slovakia, this man cannot be trusted because he will betray our allies everywhere in Europe. Therefore, the danger, as far as it is a danger, from the point of view of hon. Members opposite, is that if we trust the Prime Minister, it may well be that there may not be war, and some of them would like war. [Interruption.] I am not the slightest bit ashamed of myself, and I shall not be any more ashamed of myself because hon. Members do not care for the views I express. Beyond that, I appreciate that hon. Members opposite are justified in criticising the Prime Minister for making this a matter of censure, as it is; but when it comes to hon. Members on the Government side, I am a little bit troubled.
2459 For instance, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who is no longer in his place, expressed many noble sentiments earlier in the afternoon. He asked whether it was an accident that the House was about to rise at the period of greatest danger that this country had ever known. Is it an accident that certain right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in the Conservative party never seem to come to the House except on occasions when they can make some criticism of the Government? Is it an accident that many of those who seem to be most anxious to bring the House back in August or September are more conspicuous for their absence than they are for their presence at ordinary times and when ordinary Debates are taking place in the House? There are a good many back-bench Members who stay on in the House all through the Session, and it does seem a little hard that those who are most anxious to bring the Session into operation again are those who, when the House is in Session, are so often absent. Before coming to the House this afternoon, I looked at the Division Lobby records for this Session. [Interruption.] The hon. Member wishes to know my Division record. It has always been well over 50 per cent., and it has generally averaged about 64 per cent. I can, at any rate, say that I have always been in the Division records, whereas the right hon. Member for Epping is not even at the bottom of the list in the Division records for this Session. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), who so eloquently supported the right hon. Member for Epping, is not in the Division records. The hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken), the other of the heavenly twins who sit at the right hon. Gentleman's feet, has not been in the Division records.
§ Mr. Bracken
As the hon. Member has referred to me as a heavenly twin, may I point out to him that there are many occasions when, unfortunately, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and I could not conscientiously support the Government?
§ Mr. Raikes
The hon. Member for North Paddington suggests that the reason under 60 Divisions are shown between November and Whitsun for himself, 2460 the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, and the right hon. Member for Epping, is that of the 154 possible Divisions, on 96 occasions they were unable to support the Government. I wonder why it is that they can still—
§ Mr. Raikes
I would not say that. It is interesting to note that there have been many other occasions when the right hon. Gentleman might have voted; but I think I can now leave that matter. The real point I want to make is that the argument from the Conservative benches in favour of the House returning in August or September might have been stronger if the case had originally been put by some right hon. or hon. Members of that party who at least could show that they had regularly attended at the House in the course of the past Session.
Mr. V. Adams
Is my hon. Friend aware that my Division record is at least as good as, if not far better than, his?
§ Mr. Raikes
I can assure ray hon. Friend that his Division record is an extremely good one, and it is for that reason that I did not name him among the hon. Members. I would also remind him that one swallow does not make a summer, and that he is rather a swallow in this respect. In conclusion, I submit that the suggestion that some definite date for the reassembly of Parliament should be fixed, far from alarming the German Fuhrer, or any other dictator abroad, would simply mark a very nice milestone for any step they wanted to take in Europe to be taken at some period just after the House had risen, after meeting automatically during the Recess. It is laid down, and it has been stated by the Prime Minister, that, in the event of any real crisis arising, the House must be gathered together, as last year the House was gathered together before Munich—[An Hon. Member: "After Berchtesgaden."] I have a certain recollection of that Munich Debate. There was not a horribly hostile House, although little voices of discord were very quickly heard after Munich was over and the danger of war had passed away.
§ 5.57 p.m..
§ Captain Sir Derrick Gunston
I do not intend to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes), who has taken some skeletons out of the Division records cupboard, but I think I may say to him that this is a House of Commons question and not a party question, and I think it is our duty to examine it as Members of Parliament, and not as members of parties. I would say to the hon. Member for South-East Essex, and also to the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), that those of us who have certain apprehensions about this Motion in no way desire to attack or question the good faith of the Prime Minister. I think that the whole House believes that when the Prime Minister gives a pledge, no man could be more punctilious than he is in carrying it out. I would remind the hon. Member for South-East Essex that the Prime Minister himself rather hinted that he would listen to suggestions on this Motion, and that the Patronage Secretary has not even made it a matter for a three-line Whip. I hope that is not the Patronage Secretary's swansong, but we thank him for allowing us that latitude.
I hope that the Prime Minister will realise that some of us have some apprehensions. We are going away at a time of great European crisis. Let nobody imagine that things are easier, and that we go away in a happy and irresponsible state; but I cannot help feeling that in some parts of the country there will be regret that at this moment of international crisis Parliament should more or less take a holiday. We who sit in the House know that many Members will not be taking holidays, but will be doing various sorts of work of national importance; but the fact remains that to the nation as a whole the House will seem to be taking a holiday. The only Minister who I hope will not take a holiday, but will remain in the House, is the Secretary of State for Air; I think he will be safer in the House than on his duties. I am sure the House was delighted to see him in his place this afternoon.
The reason I have some apprehensions about this Motion is that it may, in fact, make the task of the Prime Minister a little more difficult. Every foreigner of distinction whom one meets emphasises 2462 the importance that this country should make its intentions clear, and that the German leader should know that we are in earnest. Therefore we welcome the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. But I cannot help thinking that when people in Germany and other countries see that Parliament is about to adjourn as usual, they may feel that, after all, this country does not mean business. We in this House know the great distinction which exists between the Executive and the Legislature here, but I am not sure that that distinction is always apparent to people abroad. For that reason, I fear that the task of the Prime Minister may be made more difficult. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has pointed out that if Parliament is specially called together it will demonstrate to the world that there is great European tension. I do not see how under the present Motion we get over that difficulty. I think it will be a very difficult task for the Prime Minister to decide when it is necessary to call Parliament together, when the mere fact of doing so will show to the world that the international situation is dangerous.
I would prefer that we should decide to meet occasionally, because the automatic calling together of Parliament under such an arrangement would not be taken, necessarily, as calling attention to the fact that there was danger in Europe. I would like to see a compromise. I would like to see an arrangement made for the House of Commons to meet once a month, the Government having power not to call the House together on those occasions unless they so desired. In other words, if the tension eased the Prime Minister could decide not to call the House together. I think that would be the best way out of the difficulty, but the Prime Minister has decided otherwise. I wonder if I might put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. I understand that if there is any alteration in Government policy the Prime Minister will call the House together. Would it be possible for him to give an assurance that he will call the House together if there is any alteration in the foreign situation? The alteration need not necessarily be for the worse. There might be a great easing in the situation. I think it would be helpful if the Prime Minister could give an assurance that on any 2463 alteration in the foreign situation, meaning, of course, a fairly serious alteration, he will call the House together. That would enable him to get out of the embarrassment of having to call the House together in circumstances in which to do so would put the whole world on tenterhooks. If it was understood that the House would be called together on a fundamental alteration in the circumstances, a great many of the fears which are felt in the country would be relieved and the Prime Minister's task made less difficult. Those of us who have apprehensions on this subject realise that the Prime Minister must be the best judge of the situation. I hope that he will realise that the apprehensions which we feel are sincere and that he will go some way to meet them.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
I wish to show the Prime Minister how back-bench Members on this side view this question. In an experience of this House of 10 years or more, I have found that the Prime Minister as a rule does not rely too much on what is said from the Front Opposition Bench, but on some occasions he does pay some attention to what is said from the back benches on this side. We realise that it is largely his responsibility to decide when the House shall have a Recess, and when it shall reassemble. I agree that that is a Government responsibility at all times. I do not agree that any number of people outside the Government should have the power to dictate when the House should reassemble. As I say, that is the Government's responsibility and I hope the Government will accept that responsibility. But there is a responsibility on the Opposition and on all Members of the House to bring some pressure to bear on the Government when they consider that the date selected for reassembly is too far ahead.
We are living in unusual times. We all fear the possibility of certain events happening in the next two months. The question is, should we leave it to the Prime Minister to wait for those events to happen and then to call Parliament together, or should we now decide to shorten the period of the Recess. It is less likely that certain things will happen in three weeks time, than that they will 2464 happen in two months time. Our suggestion is that, in the unusual circumstances, it would be better to meet in three weeks time. I am not concerned as to the Division records of hon. Members on any side of the House. I have always known that the Division records of supporters of the Government is a poor one. In fact, the hon. Member who raised the question has a record of 87 out of a possible 154, which is not too good. But I think those who have good records are entitled to speak on this issue.
The Prime Minister has in any case decided to shorten the Recess. He is bringing us back about three weeks earlier than usual to do certain business. I should prefer him to work it the other way round; to continue in Session now and get through the business which he proposes to take in October. I would prefer to sit during the remainder of August in order to transact the business which has been announced for October. During that period we should get to know more about the Russian situation. Surely during the next three weeks we shall be getting nearer to a settlement, if a settlement is ever to be reached. I realise that once the Prime Minister feels that a Vote of Censure or of distrust in him is being put forward, he will stand on his honour and put his followers on their honour also. But I want the right hon. Gentleman to see that there is a way out of the difficulty. We are concerned—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman thinks we are too much concerned—with the question of an agreement with Russia. We think it a vital factor in the present situation. If the Prime Minister wants to complete certain business why should he not, instead of putting it off until October, say "The circumstances in the international field are such that I must ask Parliament to sit throughout August." I suppose that some of those who are, to-day, asking for an earlier re-assembly of Parliament might object to that proposal, but I think the Prime Minister could show the advantage of getting through that business now. In the meantime the international situation might have eased.
I do not altogether agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), although he produced instances to support his view, that the dictators have taken certain action in the past, just because Parliament has not 2465 been in session. I have not been impressed by the argument that it is when Parliament is not sitting that these things are done. I say that the dictators take these actions when it suits them, and at the time when they are ready. I think they would take such action, if the time and circumstances suited them, even if Parliament were in session. That is my personal view. But I think that Parliament ought to be in session at a time like the present. I have a heavy record of personal attendances in this House and I am ready for a rest, but in present circumstances I consider that the shorter the Recess is, the better. I do not see any objection to coming here, say, on 20th August even if it is only for the purpose of being told by the Prime Minister that the situation has not changed at all. I do not regard that possibility as in any way objectionable but I fear the possibility of what may happen during a two months' recess and I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider the whole position. Why should we not continue to sit now and do the business which has been put down for October? During that time the atmosphere may clear and we may be able to review the whole foreign situation in altered conditions.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Sir William Davison
I would like the House to come back to the Motion on the Paper which raises a very simple question. We are not concerned with the Division records of hon. Members, or other irrelevant matters which have been brought into the discussion. It has been said that Parliament's action would be misunderstood abroad if we went on holiday at a time when the European situation is tense. Why is Parliament proposing to go on a holiday, or rather to adjourn? The reason is because Parliament has dealt with all the urgent matters which required to be dealt with, in order to put the country into a state of preparedness, if unfortunately we should have to go to war. Parliament has done its work. It has prepared the country, in so far as it could by legislation prepare the country, for what will have to be done should the great emergency arise. Therefore, it is far better for Members, in accordance with our practice for years past—Parliament having discharged its functions and 2466 done its duty in passing the necessary legislation—to go to their constituencies and explain to their constituents the meaning of the various Measures which have been passed and what is necessary to bring those measures to fruition.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously putting before the House the proposition that the only function of the House is to pass legislation? Is it not an even more important function to control the Executive?
§ Sir W. Davison
Parliament has had the policy of the Executive of the Government—I assume the hon. Member means in foreign affairs—before it again and again. We have repeatedly and meticulously discussed the Government's foreign policy and on each occasion, by an overwhelming majority the House has approved the policy of the Government and the policy which the Government will adopt in any future emergency.
§ Sir W. Davison
Further, the Prime Minister has given the pledge, which hon. Members opposite have accepted, that if that policy is substantially altered in the future for any reason, Parliament will at once be summoned. The hon. and gallant Member for Thornbury (Sir D. Gunston) said he thought the House would agree to the proposal that we should arrange to meet once a month but that the Prime Minister should have the power, if necessary, to cancel any particular sitting, saying that in his opinion there was nothing very urgent calling for Parliament's attention and therefore Parliament would not meet on that occasion. But what is the difference between this and the Motion on the Paper? Moreover, I think we may be sure that our friend Dr. Goebbels and his propaganda ministry would always see to it that something pretty urgent was arranged for, so that Parliament might be summoned. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was speaking I interrupted him to point out that his argument was in effect: "Why should we adjourn at all?" We all know that Herr Hitler does not wait for three weeks or even for two weeks before taking action when he decides upon a coup. We all remember that the Albanian crisis arose when Parliament 2467 had been adjourned for ten days only.
Therefore, you will not secure that Parliament shall be able to deal with any emergency by saying that it should come back in three weeks' time. It would mean that Parliament would have to continue in Session permanently for the present, although the right hon. Member for Epping said he would not expect Parliament to go on sitting night and day. His contention was quite illogical. In my opinion, to adopt the Amendment of the Opposition would be simply playing into the hands of the dictators and making them think that we really are looking and listening with tremulous feelings for every word that they may say. The thing for this country to do is to go about our own business in our own way. Parliament has by its legislation given us the power to put our defences in order. Let us go about our business in our own way and stop listening to these stupid gibes and dictatorial mandates and threats from over the water. We need not concern ourselves with them. We are now well prepared, well able, with the aid of our Dominions and of our Allies, to give a good account of ourselves, and woe to the foreign Powers and their selfish machinations if they attack us.
Let us not go jittering about and saying we must be called back if Dr. Goebbels makes a speech, or holds out another threat, or says he is going to send so many big guns into Danzig, or Italy makes some movement towards Yugoslavia. Let us keep calm. Let this House adjourn in the ordinary way. Let us pass the Motion that the Prime Minister has moved that, having done our duty, we may now go to our constituents, explain what we have done, and ask them to help the country in every way they can, both in Civil Defence and in military training, relying on the pledge given in the Motion and the separate pledge given by the Prime Minister that if anything serious and unforeseen emerges, Parliament will be summoned to deal with it. Meanwhile, we trust the Government and the Prime Minister, who, thank God, is in charge of our affairs, to do the right thing.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Law
My hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) used an argument towards the 2468 end of his speech which I must confess I did not quite follow. He said that to call Parliament together again some time during the next two months would be a surrender to Herr Hitler and a surrender to panic. If he believes that, surely he must equally believe that those other measures that have been taken by the Government, such as the calling-up of the Naval Reserve, the introduction of conscription, and so on, have been a surrender to panic and to the jitters. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend, because he is, if I may say so, the first private Member who has supported the Motion who has, in my judgment, put forward arguments that have been worthy of the occasion and have not been frivolous. I very much regret the tone of the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes). This matter which we are discussing is a matter of vital importance, and both my hon. Friends to whom I have just referred brought to the discussion of this question, or so ii seemed to me, a frivolity that the subject did not warrant, and an imputation of unworthy motives which certainly I do not like to hear in this House.
I know there have been rumours in the Press and whispers in the Lobby that anyone who wants in any way to limit the discretion of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in regard to this matter of the summoning of Parliament is, by that very fact, plotting against the Prime Minister and trying to humiliate, embarrass, and hamper him in his activities. The hon. Member for South Croydon went so far as to say that this desire to summon Parliament earlier was due entirely to people who were dissatisfied with the Munich Agreement of last September. I am one of those who did not agree that the Munich Agreement was a good agreement, and I regretted it, but to say that I and others who thought as I did on that question did so for any other reason than that we thought it was, although in the circumstances perhaps the best that could be obtained, a bad agreement, is not fair. I think it monstrous to cast aspersions on Members of this House in that kind of way. I think the suggestion that the desire to recall Parliament is an act of lack of confidence in the Prime Minister is an aspersion not only upon us as individuals, but upon 2469 this House in its corporate capacity, because, after all, it does imply the hypothesis that there is some fundamental antagonism between the Prime Minister and the House of Commons, and that if the House of Commons is here at a time of crisis, the Prime Minister will be hampered and hindered in the work which he is trying to do. I am sure that that is a theory of the Constitution which no Member of this House, whether on the Treasury Bench, the Front Opposition Bench or anywhere else, would accept for a moment.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon gave us a brief lecture on constitutional history. He told us that it was the business of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to govern, and that it was not the business of the House of Commons to govern; and that is true, broadly speaking. The House of Commons is the Legislature, and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are the Executive, but surely the Legislature, which has no right, I admit, to control the day-today actions of the Executive, has a definite right, and indeed a definite duty, to criticise the Executive. I do not mean to criticise factiously, and I am sure that the Government would be' prepared to admit that the criticism which they have had from the House of Commons in these matters has not been altogether factious and unworthy, because otherwise I do not think they would have adopted so many of the suggestions which have been made by private Members in the Debates in this House. But I do feel that we, as Members of Parliament, have a definite duty to criticise the Executive and to keep it, so to speak, up to the mark, and the more dangerous and the more critical the times, the greater and the more vital our duty becomes.
I was very glad that the Prime Minister, when he moved the Motion, did not attribute any motives at all to those who do not see eye to eye with him upon this matter, and I am sure he would not do so. The Prime Minister used an argument which seemed to command the general assent of perhaps a majority in the House, but I am not sure that it was a very good argument. He said he thought the burden of responsibility or of choice in this matter should rest with the Government, and with the Government alone. I wonder whether that is really true. If there was any question of policy, 2470 it would be true, because the House of Commons has not got any day-to-day control over policy. But it is not a question of policy. It is a question of the right of private Members and the duty which we as private Members owe to our constituents whom we try to represent in this House, and I am not at all sure that the Prime Minister and the Government are the best judges of what that duty may be. If I may say so, without any offensive intent, I think they are very likely to be fallible in that regard, for, after all, the Executive only acts as it thinks rightly. The Executive never consciously and deliberately does an unwise or an evil or a bad action. At the same time, the Executive must, being composed of human beings, feel that the meeting of Parliament imposes upon it a strain and a burden from which it is free when Parliament is not sitting. I think there must always be a predisposition in the mind of the Government to seek freedom to do what they believe to be right and to try and avoid shouldering burdens which they honestly consider to be unnecessary. I believe that the House of Commons, on a point of this kind which is not concerned with policy, but which does concern our relations as private Members with our own constituents, would be a better judge even than the Prime Minister and the Government.
More than one hon. Member has said that he is glad that there is not a three-line whip on this matter to-day. I wish for myself that it could be a free vote, and if such a vote went against the Motion, it would not imply, in my view, any lack of confidence in the Prime Minister or any rebuff to the Government. It would only give to those of us who feel as I do the opportunity of fulfilling what we conceive to be our duty to our constituents. These are very serious times. We have done in this Parliament, in this Session, quite unprecedented things; we have brought in conscription and so on. If we believe the times are serious, as they are, if we believe that this is a crisis not only in this Session, not only in this Parliament, but in the whole history of the British Empire, then I think our constituents have a right to expect that we should at any rate hold ourselves available for the recall of Parliament at an earlier date than that proposed in the Motion.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Speeches like those to which we have just listened are sufficient evidence that the statements made by the hon. Members for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and South—EastEssex (Mr. Raikes) are entirely unwarranted. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for South Croydon that we were not genuine and sincere in putting forward this Amendment has been answered by the last speaker, and as to the statement made by the hon. Member for South-East Essex, that some hon. Members would like a war, I cannot conceive of anything more mischievous and more of an insult to the Members to whom those remarks were addressed than that statement. Surely the House can see that the attitude of the Opposition to Government legislation, what we might term war legislation, has been no unwarrantable or obstructive attitude, like that taken up by the Members of the Conservative party immediately before the last War broke out. We could have brought forward evidence of that when we were discussing the Prevention of Violence Bill, but we refrained from doing so. We could have quoted the statements of Conservative Members on that critical occasion immediately before the last War. Surely our attitude is evidence that we do not want to stand in the way of anything the Government wish to do which will contribute to the safety of this country.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I happened to be a Member of this House at that time. May I assure the hon. Member that from the very moment there was any possibility of this country being involved in a Continental war all in the House sank their individual opinions and gave absolute support to Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister of the day.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I armed myself with quotations from prominent members of the Conservative party right up to the very day—almost up to the very day—war was declared and if I had thought it appropriate to bring them out when we were discussing the Prevention of Violence Bill they would, I think, have been convincing evidence of the Conservative party's obstructive tactics against the Liberal Government in those days when events were almost as serious as they are now. The hon. and gallant Member says that as soon as it was realised by all 2472 parties in the House, immediately before the last War, that there was a state of crisis, of danger to this country, they all sank their differences. Is not history repeating itself to-day? Can any hon. Member deny that we on this side of the House have been willing to sink our differences, very vital differences, with the Government? Take one case alone, the introduction of conscription. Some of us felt so deeply on that issue that we even abstained from going into the Lobby against the Government. Why? Because we can realise just as much as hon. Members opposite the gravity of the situation that faces this country.
It could be argued, I admit, that the Amendment we have moved could be construed as a Vote of Censure against the Government. It is no secret from the Prime Minister that even now we do disagree with him fundamentally on some of his actions, but the Government themselves, as I understand, by not issuing a three-line Whip to their supporters have not taken it as a vote of censure, and we do not intend it as such. All we are asking is that the House should agree not to depart for so long a period in these grave times. What would be the position if events did occur in the manner outlined by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) this afternoon? It is not an impossible picture that he has painted. So many of the pictures he has given to the House have been very objective in their perspective, so many of the events he has forecast have come true. Why should it be levelled against him or against us that because we remind the Government that there have been occasions when his warnings have come true—and our warnings also—that we are simply criticising the Prime Minister in his personal capacity? We are not doing anything of the kind.
I do not want to take up time by bringing forward arguments, because I think the soundest arguments have already been stated, but I should like to make this appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, an appeal of sentiment. He has stated on more than one occasion that he is not an unreasonable man—many of us think he is an obstinate man on occasions—and is it not possible to appeal to his better nature. The right hon. Gentleman knows that events are moving at a rapid pace and may culminate in a situation in which he will have to come 2473 down to this House and ask the whole of this House, the Opposition included, for a vote of confidence and for supplies to carry on a war against our enemies. He knows that is a possibility. It is no good our sticking our heads in the sand, it is a possibility. When he does that he will expect support from us, he will expect unity. Is it not possible then, before that occasion arises, that he should concede to us this very small point we are asking, which is that we should be taken into the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman, be given the true picture—not be left to gather our information from the Press and from rumours which the right hon. Gentleman has so often decried, but allowed to get our information from the only source which can give it and that is the Prime Minister and the Government itself. Why cannot he agree to that small point? If the right hon. Gentleman, in the serious circumstances which face this country, is going to ask for true unity, and expect it from us who disagree with many points of his policy, then surely he must give us some foundation for belief in him and his policy. He has been good enough to say that he gives the House an assurance that if the Government are contemplating a change in that policy, he will call the House together. I suggest that those words are very ominous. I thought that the Government had defined their policy and were not going to move from it by one iota. Why should it be thought necessary to say that the House may be called together to consider a change in the policy which has been defined by the Government in the past.
§ Mr. Bellenger
If the Government are not going to change the policy which they have defined it will not be necessary to call the House together to consider such a change.
§ The Prime Minister
Will the hon. Member reflect that if that is his response to my acceding to the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, it is not very encouraging to me to accede to the request made by him?
§ Mr. Bellenger
If anything I have said is likely to affect any change of mind that may have come over the right hon. Gentleman in response to the request 2474 made from many quarters of the House, I withdraw those remarks. Perhaps they arose from the fact that I cannot even at this late stage entirely dissociate myself from suspicion of the right hon. Gentleman's attitude. The right hon. Gentleman must give me this credit, that I am frank in my expression of my opinions. I believe that the definition of the policy which the Government have laid down is a satisfactory definition, but what I still have a doubt about in my own mind is this, that the Government may not take such an explicit view of what those pledges mean if the tactics which may be used by Herr Hitler in the future may lead them to bring pressure to bear upon certain other countries so that the pledges which the Government have given in the past can be adjusted. I would only suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that just as we have a suspicion of him and his Government he has the same of us. We are all of us trying to live down suspicion. We are about to disperse, and all I ask him is this: Even if he does not believe in the point of view which I have put forward, at any rate that expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was certainly moderate in tone, and is worthy of some better response than the statement that the Prime Minister cannot agree to the Amendment.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed
If I intervene in this Debate with a few sentences it is because I have a point of view which I hold rather strongly. I intervene as a profound, unqualified supporter of the policy of the Prime Minister, and I believe that he will go down to history, when these days are seen in correct perspective, as a man who brought this country and this Empire lasting good. If I thought that a single word I said tonight in the remotest degree showed the slightest lack of confidence in the Prime Minister I would cut out my tongue before I spoke it. But as we listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition my mind went clearly and irrevocably in one direction. The scene he depicted in Europe is one we can all accept, and, accepting that scene, the only course for this House is to remain in continuous session until these anxious days are past. If a Motion to that effect had been put before the House it would 2475 have had my unqualified support and if I commend to the Prime Minister most respectfully the Amendment moved by the Opposition it is not because I believe it is the best thing but is the second best thing in the emergency with which we are confronted.
As has been said over and over again in this Debate by men who speak with unqualified authority and with great knowledge, the emergency which may come before us in the weeks immediately ahead is not an emergency of a day. It may be the emergency of an hour; it may be the emergency of moments. And if that emergency does arise, as it may arise at any minute—everyone who thinks can see the possibility—it does seem to me that the Prime Minister will require consultation with the House and the support of this House in the national policy which he is to pursue. It is said that the House can be called together in days or even a day, but to my mind that will not suffice in the position we have to face now. My own ideas favour continuing the Session of this House, but I venture to put it to the Prime Minister that if we cannot have that ought we not to accept the second best thing, which would avoid the disturbance, the anxiety and the perplexities which may be caused by the sudden calling of Parliament, when it may even be too late, and will secure that united authority which we want the Government to have if the emergency arises.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I intervene in this Debate because I find that I cannot quite agree with any of the speeches which have been made. The speech with which I found myself most nearly in agreement was that of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) in that while he was not in favour of any particular Amendment on the Paper, neither was he entirely happy about the Motion. In my few observations I hope to make a suggestion which would make me happy in support of the Motion, something which I think the Prime Minister might say when he speaks later in the Debate. I should like to dissociate myself at once from the remarks, which I cannot think were worthy of him, which were made by the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes). Really this is a serious occasion, and to think that it is any answer to the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) 2476 to talk about his Division record seems to me quite fantastic. I have not been a follower, and I am not a follower, of the right hon. Member for Epping, but he has certainly intervened in, I think, all the great Debates of this Parliament, and to talk about the Division record of so great a House of Commons man is quite unworthy of the hon. Member.
Let me say at once that I think the Government have very good reasons for not accepting any of the Amendments upon the Order Paper. At the same time I feel there was great force in the observations made by very many hon. and right hon. Members in all quarters of the House that at this very serious juncture in international politics it may prove impossible that we should separate for two months. I know that the Prime Minister realises that too, and that it is provided in the Motion that you, Mr. Speaker, on the advice of the Prime Minister, may summon the House if circumstances demand, as well they may. There is force, however, in what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping that for the Prime Minister to use this power might in itself introduce an atmosphere of crisis which he would not desire to introduce.
Therefore, my constructive suggestion, which I beg the Prime Minister to consider, is this. When he insists—I do not mind his insisting—on the terms of the Motion on the Paper, will he not also give the House one further category of cases in which he might deem it right to call the House together? The Prime Minister said, if I remember rightly, that he would summon the House if legislation were required, or if there were any change of policy to announce I quite agree with those two categories of circumstance, but I suggest one further category, and I should be content that the Prime Minister should be the judge whether a case in that category had arisen. It is that there should be such a state of public anxiety, or such a controversy in the country, that he thought it desirable to summon the House. I can imagine it being a perfectly good reason for summoning the House that the Opposition wanted it. I have no great fear that the leaders of the Opposition parties would put forward a frivolous request for the summoning of the House, and if they did so I am certain that the Prime Minister would turn it down, but 2477 I am anxious that the Prime Minister should regard such a request as a potentially good reason for summoning the House. He should leave it open to himself to do so.
§ Mr. Strauss
I quite agree that he has, and if he said now that he would use it I should be quite content. I seriously suggest that if the only two categories are those which the Prime Minister has already given us, then if we receive a summons from Mr. Speaker it may look to observers in this country and abroad that something very serious has arisen, and that in itself may hamper the Prime Minister. If my right hon. Friend says in the speech that he is to make later that he can imagine circumstances in which, on grounds of controversy in the country, or an urgent request by an Opposition party, he would think it desirable to summon the House, notwithstanding that no crisis had arisen, I believe that that would strengthen his power under the terms of the Motion, and it would make me and some other Members on this side of the House perfectly happy and wholehearted in supporting the Government.
Let me put the position in this way: I believe, with some experience of the views of that part of the country, the capital city of which I have the honour to represent, that there is a desire that this House should be sitting when public opinion is gravely worried and possibly divided. If the House is not sitting, an unnatural and undesirable importance may be attached to irresponsible statements in the Press. I do not desire to confer on the Press of this country the power which it is likely to have in times of acute anxiety if this House is not sitting. I am quite content with the terms of the Motion, if the Prime Minister will satisfy us about the interpretation that he places upon it. He was right in naming the two categories which he did name, but I think that they are too narrow, if they are to be exclusive. I hope that the Prime Minister will tell me that my anxieties are wholly unnecessary and that he will consider it open to him, apart from any need for legislation or any change of policy, to summon this House—
§ Mr. Mander
Surely it is unnecessary for the hon. Member to labour the point 2478 any further about calling the House together if legislation were needed. There is no concession in that. There is nothing in it at all.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am sorry if the hon. Member thinks that I am saying what is unnecessary. I agree that if legislation were necessary the House would be recalled, as it would also be if a change of policy had to be announced by the Prime Minister, who has promised to recall the House in those circumstances. I want the Prime Minister to say one further thing, that he can imagine further circumstances in which he would consider it desirable to recall the House, one of which might be widespread public anxiety and another a request—not necessarily a formal demand, but a serious request—by the Leaders of the Opposition parties. I beg my right hon. Friend to go a little further in that direction in stating the circumstances in which he would advise Mr. Speaker to call the House together.
§ 6.53 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
I want to put one or two considerations before the Prime Minister. I want to ask him whether he agrees that the interrogations and assistance of the Opposition, as well as the advice of many hon. Members of this House, with regard to the Government's armament preparations up to date have been of value to Ministers in formulating their armament policy? We have had Votes dealing with our preparations, and Bills which run the country into many millions of pounds, affecting the lives of many men and women, and organising our forces in this country. In all that legislation, the most important factor has been that representatives of the people have discussed the legislation put forward in order to get the best possible result in the circumstances. Every consultation, and every meeting with the leaders of parties, with trade union leaders, Members of the Opposition or Members in other parts of the House, have been of great assistance to the Prime Minister. It has been stated by the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) that we were now well ahead with our preparations and that we could disperse quite safely, because our country was in such a condition and so well armed and prepared that hon. Members could go off for their holidays.
§ Sir W. Davison
What I stated was that Parliament had passed all the legislation which enabled the country to get on with those preparations, and that Members would be much better employed going to their constituencies and explaining the legislation that had been passed, and explaining also how their constituents could help, than by sitting here.
The OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow will prove whether I am cor-rest. I do not recall the hon. Member saying that Members could go to their constituencies and explain the armaments policy. [Hon. Members: "Yes, he did."] He did nothing of the kind. [Hon. Members: "Withdraw."] I would point out to the hon. Member that during the old age pensions Debate the Prime Minister told the House that we were only halfway through our armaments programme. He said that we were only in the middle of our great arms defensive policy. Therefore the hon. Member and other Government supporters are entirely wrong in saying that we are now in such a state of preparation that we can go on holiday and leave the affairs of State to the Cabinet. He also added at the end of his speech in a very emphatic voice—I know that many hon. Members may repeat this—that we should also say, "Thank God that we have our Prime Minister here." [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I would point out to hon. Members that that is what the German Reichstag say to Herr Hitler. After they have been deprived of their rights and liberties and powers of interrogation they tell the people of Germany: "Have faith in Hitler. Thank God for Hitler." I hope that the sentimental liking of hon. Members for one man will not lead them to throw away lightly or frivolously the rights and privileges of the representatives of the people in this House.
In England, Scotland and Wales, we are asking the key-men of industry and the civilian population to rearrange, and, in many cases, to shorten their holidays. We are asking them in some cases to work excessive overtime and, after their daily duties, to give hours of their leisure time to preparing for the protection of the country. We are asking them to make sacrifices. At the same time we are here as representatives of the people saying that while it ought not to be business as usual for the men in the Militia, 2480 because they must make a change in the whole of their lives, or for those who work in offices and factories and who then carry on, to prepare themselves in some method of defence, or for many other parts of the nation, we are the only people for whom it is business as usual. We can go off for our holidays and leave the preparations to the Cabinet. I trust that the Prime Minister will realise that many hon. Members have the right to say that they do not trust in him as the proper man to be head of the state of affairs which exists in the country. I have that right, and I expressed that right through the medium of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Scottish Labour Movement and the Scottish Co-operative Movement, all very important factors in the welfare of the nation and the armaments policy of the nation. These great organisations have all passed resolutions declaring that they cannot undertake to take part in many of the National Defence measures because of their complete distrust of the present Prime Minister as a man to lead that national campaign.
Therefore, it is right that I should say from these benches that I am opposed to the course the Prime Minister proposes in taking away the rights of Parliament at a time of crisis. Undoubtedly there is a time of crisis. Government supporters themselves in the Lobbies are laying the odds as to whether there will be a war or not. They are saying that Hitler may act now or may wait until his crops are in. The country is full of rumours. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet know that. During this time of crisis they are asking the House of Commons to disperse for two months, leaving the decisions in the hands of the present Cabinet which, because of the unsatisfactory working of many of its Members has been constantly reshuffled. I think the Minister of Labour sitting there is about the only Member who has kept his place in the Cabinet for any considerable period. There have been reshuffles because of inadequacy and inefficiency. We have an inner Cabinet composed of two former Foreign Secretaries who will run the affairs of State while the Members are away—two former Foreign Secretaries who were dismissed from office because they ran against the wishes of the people of this country. We 2481 have the right as the representatives of the people to say that we should not break up and go away because of the tension in the country and because we are asking the people in industry and the manual workers to make sacrifices.
The Prime Minister said that if the policy of the Government were altered he would recall the House of Commons. The policy of the Government cannot be altered in a minute or an hour. There must be important events that lead up step by step to the altering of Government policy on foreign affairs. There must be incidents and there must be conversations. Surely it is right that hon. Members of this House who are interested in the affairs of the nation and of their constituents should see to it that they retain their right of interrogation. I stand as one who believes that the Prime Minister has constantly taken advantage of the holiday periods of Parliament to take in some particular point of his policy that we had not agreed upon. I believe the Prime Minister has taken advantage of these holiday periods to change his policy. He is operating to-day a different policy from that which operated before Munich. The Prime Minister's policy has been constantly changing and I suggest that, 'for the reasons I have put forward—we are only half way through our defensive preparations and are asking the key men of this country to make sacrifices—the Prime Minister should keep Parliament in his confidence not only when he decides to alter his policy but when steps are being taken which force him to alter his policy. I say the Opposition are justified in the view they take and are expressing the desire of the people in making their clear and concise claim that the Members of this House representing their constituents should be kept fully in touch with the affairs of the nation.
§ 7.6 p.m..
§ Mr. Amery
I frankly regret the tone of the last speech which has brought the Debate down again to that level of imputation of motives and of suspicion which played a part in some earlier speeches, not from one side only, in this Debate. After all, the situation is far too serious for any imputation of that kind. We are in a state of what is, if not declared war, very near war. Every day 2482 some act of aggression is being committed in Danzig which might at any moment precipitate a struggle. It may not be as distant even as 21st August. At a time like that I do not think any of us would wish to embarrass the work of the Government by calling Parliament together unnecessarily. Equally there are many of us who feel that if the crisis becomes graver, then the hands of the Government will not be weakened or their work embarrassed by having with them a united Parliament to strengthen and support them and act as their interpreter towards a united nation. The really important thing at this moment is unity, and it is from that point of view that I deprecate any suggestion that the views of either side on this question are influenced by any other consideration except the needs of the country and the gravity of the situation.
Those of us who may not be willing to accept the Amendments of the Leaders of the Opposition are, I think, prepared—I certainly am—to assume that their motives and their speeches were influenced by no other consideration than a patriotic desire to help the country, and through the country, the Government, at a moment of crisis. The only suggestion I would make—here I would like to endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss)—is to appeal to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to give a lead himself in that insistence upon national unity and in that faith in the patriotism of the whole House by adding to the conditions that he has already made under which he will summon the House together, the assurance that representations made responsibly by Leaders of the Opposition—and I am sure they are not men who will make them frivolously or without necessity—
Might I say that we did not make them frivolously last year, but our request was put off until it was too late?
§ Mr. Amery
I was only suggesting that if these representations are made—they were made, I am fully prepared to admit, in all seriousness last year—if they are made on this occasion, that my right hon. Friend should take them into serious and sympathetic consideration. He, naturally, cannot pledge himself to accept them, but I think he would set at ease 2483 the minds of a great many Members of this House and contribute to the unity of the nation and Parliament before we separate if he told the whole House that a manifestation, responsibly made from whatever quarter, of the feeling of the House, that it was believed that the situation was grave enough to warrant the reassembly of Parliament, would meet with his serious consideration.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister
We have now debated this question for over three hours, and I think the House is probably prepared to come to a decision. I have not noticed any signs of conversion visibly proceeding on the part of hon. Members who have listened to the proceedings on one side or the other. Before I examine the arguments that have been put forward there is one matter to which, I think, I must address myself for a minute or two. Two speeches were made by hon. Members opposite, the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) which were particularly addressed to myself, and which greatly impressed me by their evident sincerity. They particularly asked me to believe that in the minds of the back benchers this was not regarded as a Vote of Censure. They wanted me, therefore, to give more unbiased and impartial consideration to what they put before me than I could have afforded if my own position were at stake. I am afraid the speech of the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) will have shown the two hon. Members that they cannot speak for the back benches either, and however much they might wish to disassociate themselves from the Front Bench, it is to the Front Bench that I must look for an official exposition of the views of the Opposition.
It has been stated that my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary has not issued a three-line whip on this occasion, and some hon. Friends of mine have gone so far as to express their gratitude to him for abstaining from issuing a three-line whip. I almost imagine that it is to be inferred from that that unless a three-line whip were issued hon. Members who are supposed to support the Government would be free to take any line that they like. Some who have spoken to-day feel that the paramount duty of a Member of 2484 Parliament, wherever he sits, is to criticise the Government—the Executive, I think, was the phrase used. Others feel that they must sometimes subordinate those differences of opinion which must always exist in any party to major issues and major interests. No doubt each must judge for himself in his own conscience which of these considerations is to before most in his mind. On this occasion I wish to point out that the official Opposition has stated very plainly through the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman who is leading them this afternoon that the root of the matter was their distrust of the Government and their suspicion that the moment Parliament's back was turned the Government would use the opportunity to change their policy.
§ The Prime Minister
No. That was not what he said. He said they would take the opportunity when the back of Parliament was turned to do something they would not be able to do when Parliament was sitting. I am not complaining about the right hon. Gentleman speaking frankly on this subject. On the contrary, I am rather grateful to him for having put the matter so clearly. All that I want to point out to my hon. Friends is that, when the matter has been put in that way, it is the good faith of the Government that is at stake, and whether there be a three-line whip, a two-line whip, or no whip at all, a vote against the Government on this occasion must, after the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman, be a vote of want of confidence. It must be clear in every quarter of the House that the good faith of the Government is questioned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was good enough to say that he did not distrust my good faith; it was my judgment that he distrusted. I am rather inclined to say, tu quoque. Still we come back to the same point. It does not matter whether you mistrust the Government because you mistrust their good faith or because you mistrust their judgment; the question is whether you trust the Government or distrust the Government. If you distrust them, and show it by your vote, very well; it is a vote of no confidence in the Government, and no confidence in the Prime Minister in particular. That is all I want to say on that point.
2485 I want now to examine some of the arguments that have been put forward. Let me say, first of all, that many of the speeches left on my mind the impression that those who were making them—I am thinking of the critics, of course—were very badly in need of a holiday, that their reasoning faculties wanted a little freshening up at the seaside. A great many of them argued on the basis, and repeated it over and over again—the right hon. Gentleman who was leading the Opposition was the first offender in this respect—that the situation before the House was this, that the House, in these critical times, was asked to go away for two months. Yes, for two months with qualifications—with the provision that, if during those two months the public interest required that 'the House should meet again, the House would be called together. They may say," But who knows that you will call the House together? "Once again we come back to the question: Do you trust the judgment and good faith of the Prime Minister and his colleagues? [Interruption.] I shall say something about last year presently, but first let me deal with the general line of argument, and not with specific allegations. The general line of argument led to very different conclusions in different parts of the House. The official Amendment of the party opposite indicates that they feel that the critical time when the House is to be called together will probably be on 21st August. Then there is the view of the party below the Gangway. They tip a day later. Then there is the view of the hon. Member for Ince, which, again, is not the view put forward by the official Opposition. His view is that we ought to go on sitting for three weeks, by which time, he is of opinion—for what reason I do not quite understand—that we shall have come to an agreement with the Soviet Government.
§ Mr, G. Macdonald
What I said was that it would be more likely to be done in three weeks than to-day.
§ The Prime Minister
It would be three weeks nearer the time, I agree. There were some warning words in the official communiqueé from Moscow which perhaps the hon. Gentleman may not have read, and, in view of that, it is quite clear that in their opinion it would not be wise 2486 to be too optimistic about reaching a very speedy conclusion. Then there was the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), that perhaps the matter would be cleared up if the two illustrations which I had given as to the circumstances which might lead me to recommend Mr. Speaker to call the House together were to be supplemented by saying that there were other conceivable circumstances in which the House might be called together. He went on to make what I thought was a more questionable suggestion, namely, that I should give an assurance that I would listen favourably to any request from the Opposition that the House should be called together. That would not at all suit the Leader of the Opposition, because he said that the responsibility lay here, and that this was the only place where it ought to lie. With that I thoroughly agree. But if I were to say that I would call the House together on the demand of the Opposition, the responsibility would no longer lie here, but across the Floor of the House with hon. Gentlemen opposite.
There is another alternative, which I do not recollect being actually put forward by anyone. I may be doing some hon. Members an injustice, but I do not recollect its being put forward by anyone. It is that we should stay here all the time. As a matter of fact, all the arguments that were used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping—arguments based upon the serious nature of the situation, the formidable preparations that were going on, the number of millions of men who were under arms to-day and the number who would be under arms tomorrow, the stories of the militarisation of Danzig, the Far East, and so forth—all his arguments were based on that gloomy picture, and indicated that in his opinion, if the House were sitting, the danger from any of these preparations would be minimised. That argument must lead inevitably to the conclusion that the House must not separate at all. I was astounded then to hear my right hon. Friend suggest that, after all, the House might safely adjourn for a fortnight or three weeks. That is the very time when, if the House by sitting could prevent these terrible emergencies arising, it ought to be here. Then there arises another question. I see that my right hon. Friend 2487 shakes his head. I do not know whether he means that no other question arises—
§ The Prime Minister
I sympathise with my right hon. Friend's sorrow, but in this matter we are not considering personal feelings; we have to consider what, in the terms of the Motion, is the public interest. Let me say that in the long run that is the consideration which overrides everything else, and that is the consideration which, to the best of the judgment that the Government can exercise, must control the time at which the House would be called together.
Let me come to another point, arising out of what I said just now. Is it the case that, when the House is sitting, the danger of war is minimised? The hon. Member for Ince did not agree with that view. It is true that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping put forward illustrations designed to show that the dictators keep a careful watch on the sittings of the House, and that, the moment they hear that Parliament is dispersed, they will feel that that is the time to bring off the next coup. Is that going quite far enough into the examples of what has taken place in the last two years? Have we forgotten what has sometimes been called "the rape of Austria"? Did that take place during the holidays? No; the House was in session at the time; but the House was not able to prevent it. There was another instance more recently, which, I should have thought, would not have passed out of the minds of hon. Members, since it only occurred last March. On 15th March the German troops began to move on Prague. The House was in session; indeed we had a Debate that same afternoon. Not only was the House in session, but it was active; it was talking about it; but it did not stop it.
Let me say a word about what happened last year. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said, and said truly, that requests were made to me, during the month of September last year, by the Leaders of the Opposition, to call Parliament together, and that they were not accepted. I remember that on 20th September I had a letter from the Leader of the Opposition, in which he said: 2488In view of the reported nature of the proposals "—this was after my first visit to Berchtes-gaden—In view of the reported nature of the proposals submitted to the Government of Czecho-Slovakia, which contemplate the dismemberment of a sovereign State at the dictation of the ruler of Germany, and involve this country in giving a guarantee in the future of Continental frontiers, I feel strongly that, before Britain is committed to this grave departure from the declared British policy, Parliament should be consulted without further delay, and I ask you to take steps for its immediate assembly.I replied:At the moment I am engaged in difficult and delicate negotiations with the object of finding a peaceful solution of a problem which, if not handled with the utmost care, may have the most serious consequences for this country. To call Parliament together now, and require me to take part in the debates while these negotiations are still in progress, would make my task impossible, but you may be assured that the necessary steps will be taken for summoning a special meeting of Parliament as soon as matters have proceeded far enough to enable me to make a full statement.On the 28th of that month Parliament was summoned, and I was met with a volume of protests from the Opposition, but, indeed, the proceedings of the House were singularly unanimous in approving the further steps that it was pro posed to take. The suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was that if the House had been summoned earlier, say, on 20th September, somehow or other—
§ The Prime Minister
Or earlier than that. The suggestion was that Parliament could have so altered affairs in Europe that the independence of Czechoslovakia could ultimately have been preserved. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) went further still. He said that if Parliament had been summoned we could have mobilised the Fleet and made an agreement with Russia, which would have saved Czecho-Slovakia. I am not going to make any comment on that suggestion by the right hon. Gentleman; I am just going to leave it in its full beauty.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Yet the astonishing thing is that this is exactly what the Prime Minister did before he got Herr Hitler to meet him at Munich.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman said that if Parliament had been called together earlier in the month of September last year, Czecho-Slovakia could have been saved and war averted by the mobilisation of the Fleet and the completion of an agreement with Russia.
§ The Prime Minister
My right hon. Friend very often finds himself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and he has done so again on this occasion. Threfore, I will only say that I totally and utterly disagree with him.
§ The Prime Minister
It is perfectly clear, if one takes the Amendment of the Opposition as it stands, that it is completely without reasonable foundation. No one could possibly say that there is any reason to pick out a particular date in August and say that that would be a suitable date for the meeting of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said that it would be a splendid thing to have this date up our sleeve. That seems to me a singularly unfortunate description of a procedure which would tie us down to this date. I claim that the procedure which we are proposing and which has been followed on other occasions, is the procedure which would enable us to have a Debate up our sleeve, and keep it up our sleeve until there is reason to bring it down again. I put it to the House that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is inconsistent with its avowed purpose, that it has no logical foundation, and that, on account of the reasons which he has given to the House for adopting it, namely, that it is moved because of the distrust of the party opposite with the Government in general, and with the Prime Minister in particular—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."]—which is endorsed, at any rate, by some of the backbenchers opposite—the Amendment is reduced merely to another form of the usual vote of no confidence in the Government, and I confidently expect my hon. Friends to defeat it.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I venture to say that the Prime Minister in the speech he has just made has missed one of the greatest opportunities of his career. He has 2490 made a narrow, bitter, partisan speech, which shows him to be, as my right hon. Friend has said, the greatest single obstacle to unity in this country. It was quite easy for him to ride off in the way he wanted to, but we know quite well that, apart from the speeches made on this side, there have been speeches from his own supporters, many representing different points of view, appealing to him to make some move, to make some concession to the widespread feeling throughout the country. I came down to-day, I must say, prepared to make a critical and hostile speech, but when I saw the course the Debate was taking and heard the genuine appeals that were being made to the Prime Minister to meet us as a House of Commons, I deliberately abstained from making that speech, because I did not want to do anything to exacerbate feeling. I felt that some little thing I said might make it more difficult for the Prime Minister to respond to what I believe is a very widespread feeling in this House. I am going to make that speech now. [Interruption.] Now that the "yes-men" have retired—
§ Mr. Mander
—those of us, in all parties, who try to keep some mind of our own and to express it from time to time can continue what I think may still be a useful discussion. The Prime Minister said he wants the Opposition to co-operate with him; but if he wants that he must play the game, and he is not playing the game. We are not asking for our own leaders to be in the Government, but we are asking, with some Members of his own party, that some of the Conservative leaders who have always proved to be absolutely right on questions of foreign policy should be in the Government. Why are they not in the Government? For two reasons: partly because the Prime Minister thinks that their presence there would upset and destroy his personal dictatorship and his domination in his own Cabinet, and partly because he thinks that Herr Hitler would not like it. I am sure that one of the reasons why the Prime Minister would not take the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) into his Cabinet is that he thinks it might antagonise Herr Hitler.
§ Mr. Mander
—that it is not possible to avoid drawing him into the Debate. Other Members of the Conservative party are not in the Government because it is suggested that it would offend Mussolini and Portugal and that perhaps Franco would not like it. The Prime Minister's attitude this afternoon has confirmed the worst fears of all those who think that directly Parliament is up there will be a tremendous move in the direction of appeasement, and that he will use all his powers to bring about a situation that will place us in the gravest danger and alter the foreign policy upon which we are united at the present time. Some of us hold grave suspicions with regard to what he is doing about Russia. Some people think that the sending of the three military officers to Russia is a very clever attempt to blind the public, in order to get over a period of two months until we get past the danger point in October, and that then, Hitler having been sufficiently frightened in the meantime, it might be possible for the Prime Minister to let the negotiations with Russia slide. We know that he does not want an Anglo-Soviet pact, that he will only consent to it if it is forced upon him against his will. His personal antagonism to Russia is well known throughout the country.
§ Mr. Mander
The sort of thing that so many people are fearing is something like this—perhaps I might put it in the form of analogy: soon after the House has risen there may appear a sentence in a leading article in the "Times"—of course, entirely without any Government authorisation, and hostile to their desires, so that it will greatly annoy them—which will say that the case of Danzig is not 2492 worth a war—they have said that already—that negotiations ought to be tried, that it is a case where, with good will, people sitting round a table may come to an agreement. We shall be told that Poland has asked for the presence of Lord Runciman—that will be the phrase, "that they have asked"—in order to mediate. We shall learn on the next day that Sir Nevile Henderson has joined the party at Danzig; we shall be told on the day after that Sir Horace Wilson has also found his way there, and probably on the next day we shall learn that Sir Francis Lindley has joined the party, too. The final scene, in the belief of some people, will be this: that a seaplane will depart carrying the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary to Danzig, leaving the Foreign Secretary on the Yorkshire moors. There are vast numbers of people throughout the country who will be confirmed in their conviction that., while that may no doubt be an extravaganza and an exaggeration of the facts, something of that kind, and on those lines, is by no means outside the bounds of possibility.
There is one other point I want to mention because people have put it to me. Suppose a situation arises where, in spite of the strong representations of the Leaders of the Opposition, and of Members opposite too, the Prime Minister absolutely refuses to call Parliament together. Members of Parliament have access to the Palace of Westminster at all times when the House is sitting or when it is not sitting. All Members should seriously consider, if a situation of that kind really arose, and the Prime Minister were affronting the feeling of the country, whether public support would not welcome the possibility of Members meeting here and in this Chamber on their own.
§ Mr. Mander
If I had known that the hon. Lady was only going to be offensive, I do not think that I should have troubled to give way. I know that the hon. Lady is usually of such a kindly nature; at least I have always found her so. Such a meeting as I suggest, I know, would be purely informal, with no constitutional authority, but it is worth consideration in certain circumstances. I 2493 believe that the Prime Minister has rendered a profound disservice to this nation and the peace of the whole world by the narrow partisan attitude he has taken up this afternoon. I want to make this clear: I do not for the moment doubt, and I never have, his good intentions, his patriotism and his desire for peace. I want to make that perfectly clear. There is nothing personal whatever, and there never will be. There is not the slightest doubt about that. I always say it at meetings even when people are anxious for me not to do so, because I believe it is true. What I profoundly distrust, as do vast numbers of people all over the country, is his judgment. My right hon. Friend was perfectly right, and I will say it once again, in saying that the Prime Minister, in spite of all his good intentions and his desire for peace, remains the main obstacle to unity in this country in these vital times.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Cartland
I am sorry to detain the House for a few moments, but I would like to say a few words as a backbencher of the Prime Minister's own party. It seemed to me, listening tonight, that there was a difference of view put forward by those who spoke from the Opposition side and those who spoke from this side, and perhaps the Prime Minister was quite justified in saying that many of the speeches made by the Opposition showed that Members lacked confidence in him. [Interruption.] Hon. Members have every right to say it. They are here so that they can express their opinions. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that everybody who spoke from this side put forward quite different arguments. All who have spoken from this side were meticulously careful to say that they did not regard this as a vote of confidence, and they welcomed the fact that the Prime Minister, in his opening speech, had most carefully not said that he regarded it as a vote of confidence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), right at the end of his speech, made an almost passionate appeal to the Prime Minister to view from the angle of national unity the demand that we should come back at an earlier date and not adjourn until 3rd October. If the demand came from Opposition leaders to the Prime Minister, he should try to look at it, even in spite 2494 of the speeches which had been made today, in an impartial manner.
I am profoundly disturbed by the speech of the Prime Minister. We are going to separate until 3rd October. I suppose the majority of us in this House are going down to our constituencies to make speeches. A fantastic and ludicrous impression, as everybody on both sides of the House, with perhaps one exception, knows, exists in this country that the Prime Minister has ideas of dictatorship. It is a ludicrous impression and everybody here on both sides of the House knows it is ludicrous, but it does exist in the country. [An Hon. Member: "Nonsense."] The hon. Gentleman says nonsense. I happen to represent the division next to that of the Prime Minister, the largest in Birmingham—
§ Mr. Cartland
My hon. Friend has more people in his division, but I have the largest area. I do not know how many meetings I have addressed in the last year, but over and over again, I have had to deny the absurd impression that the Prime Minister in some way has ideas of dictatorship. I happened to speak some time ago on the same platform as the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). I heard him say, on that occasion, what he has just said, that he has never challenged the personal work and the personal desire of the Prime Minister for peace. We have all said that, and yet there is the ludicrous impression in this country that the Prime Minister has these dictatorship ideas. The speech which he has made this afternoon and his absolute refusal to accept any of the proposals put forward by Members on both sides of the House will make it much more difficult for those of us to try and dispel that idea.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Has my hon. Friend heard, in his division or anywhere else, when engaged in the prosecution of his political work, any suggestion in any quarter whatever that the Prime Minister is pursuing a policy of dictatorship?
§ Mr. Cartland
I regret very much to say that I have. That is precisely what I have just said, and if it is of any interest to my hon. Friend, I received a letter this morning from a constituent of mine posted in King's Norton, and signed "Conservative." She has been a Conservative all her life, and she writes to 2495 me now to say that she is very upset because so many people think the Prime Minister is a friend of Hitler. I would not have brought that in if my hon. Friend had not interrupted.
The right hon. Gentleman is the head of a strong Government. He has an immense vote and he knows that he can carry anything through the Lobby. He has only to consult his right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, and he can get anything through. How easy it would be for him, when the whole of democracy is trying to stand together to resist aggression, to say that he had tremendous faith in this democratic institution. Personally I cannot see why he could not come down and say, "We will decide to meet on 21st August, or on a certain date, and if, after consulting with the Opposition Leaders, we are all agreed that there is no reason to meet, then do not let Parliament meet." Everybody would accept that. We are in the situation that within a month we may be going to fight, and we may be going to die. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to say "Oh." There are thousands of young men at the moment in training in camps, and giving up their holiday, and the least that we can do here, if we are not going to meet together from time to time and keep Parliament in session, is to show that we have immense faith in this democratic institution. I cannot imagine why the Prime Minister could not have made a great gesture in the interests of national unity. It is much more important, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook said, to get the whole country behind you rather than make jeering, pettifogging party speeches which divide the nation. How can the Prime Minister ask for real confidence in himself as Prime Minister, and as Leader of the country rather than Leader of a party? I frankly say that I despair when I listen to speeches like that to which I have listened this afternoon.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan
The House is always generous to a view which is sincerely put forward, even if it is not universally held in this House, and I crave only a few minutes of the time of the House to make two observations. All those who have listened to the whole of this Debate must be struck with the contrast 2496 between the speech with which the Prime Minister opened it and the tone of the speech with which he closed it. He opened the Debate as Leader of the House, and I was very much encouraged to think that if he would not make a concession, he would at least give some pledge or assurance which would enable many Members of the House to go away reassured as to what would be the method by which he would operate his powers under this Motion. I do not think that the Debate, except in a very few speeches, was such as to explain the extraordinary change that came over the character of the speech with which he wound up the Debate. I do not think that there was very much of which to complain. He made a very adroit speech, making the most of accusations of bad faith, which, of course, is just the normal procedure which adroit Parliamentary speakers use to show the mistakes or maladjustments in the speeches of their opponents. The speeches which were made in the course of the Debate did not seem to justify that attitude.
I say most sincerely that I have every confidence that my right hon. Friend will carry out exactly what he says. I have great confidence in his personal honour. He has a very high standard. He is very careful as to how he frames his speeches, because he is so jealous of his honour. Any one who followed both speeches would see that he reserves to himself full powers for his own judgment, and his judgment alone, to be exercised. I still thought, until his last speech, and particularly the last sentences, that he would give us some assurance not merely that a change in the policy of the Government would recall Parliament—he has given us that before—not merely that a crisis of so grave a kind naturally made the calling of Parliament necessary because of legislation and Votes on Account and so on, but that, if a radical change in the situation of Europe took place, he would then think it his duty to ask Parliament to meet in order that it might freely express its opinion.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Member must surely see that, while it is not possible for me, by myself, to give specific pledges now about conditions which have not yet arisen and which cannot be foreseen, such circumstances as those which he describes must necessarily be included in my view.
§ Mr. Macmillan
What the Prime Minister has now said certainly entirely alters the situation and gives me great re-assurance. When he gave his account of the proceedings last year he justified the non calling together of Parliament until after the event. Supposing an event similar to that which led up to the week before Berchtesgaden, supposing there was a mobilisation and a moving of troops, supposing that kind of change in the present situation was to come about, on last year's programme Parliament would not meet until some final situation had been reached, on the ground—I can quite understand it—that delicate negotiations required the full attention of Ministers. What the right hon. Gentleman now says I accept as an assurance that if any substantial change takes place in this strange lull, which may be the lull before the storm or may be the beginning of better things, Parliament will be called, and I, and I think many of my Friends, will be completely willing to leave the matter to his judgment and will feel immensely reassured.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to raise a point which has not been touched on throughout the Debate, but before dealing with it I want to comment on the very cheap character of the Prime Minister's speech. The earnest, deeply felt speech of the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) was a thousand times more damning to the Prime Minister than all the cheap jeers of those who sat behind him during that speech, in which he dealt with the arguments for the earlier calling of Parliament. There is another thing which it is necessary to take note of and that is the. offensive sneer when the Prime Minister referred to the negotiations with the Soviet Union. A few weeks ago I Asked a supplementary question, and the Prime Minister's reply was a deliberate insult to the Soviet Union. It is as clear as anything that the Prime Minister is not in favour of a pact with the Soviet Union. He would do anything, backed by a number of his supporters, to prevent it
The point that I want to come to is this: The question is whether Parliament shall meet on 21st August or 3rd October. I am for 21st August, but if we are not going to have 21st August let us have 3rd October, and no calling of Parliament 2498 by the Prime Minister. We had an experience last year, and no one who has any respect for the House or for democracy will want it repeated. We had the House called together after a state of panic had been created, and the House of Commons meeting in a condition of panic is utterly incapable of carrying on any business. If we meet on 21st August we shall carry on with our normal business regardless of any crisis that may be developing. When we were called together in a hurry the Prime Minister read a letter that he had sent to Hitler: "Dear Herr Hitler, You can get everything you want without worry and without delay," and the House of Commons passed it. I got up and protested against in. Only in a panic could Parliament acquiesce in the sending of such a letter. If we met in the normal way and the Prime Minister proposed sending a letter telling Hitler that he could get everything he wanted, is it possible that we should allow that to pass?
I am absolutely opposed to this idea of Parliament being out of session and the Prime Minister carrying on negotiations and then calling Parliament together. The attitude of Members supporting the Prime Minister is an evidence of what we can drift into. He has a whole crowd of supporters who would be quite prepared to come to the House periodically and, whatever the Prime Minister put before them, they would give their assent and depart. The exhibition that was given while the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) was speaking is an indication that you have Members here who are better suited for the Reichstag, who would come in when the Prime Minister wants them and go out when he does not. When the Prime Minister spoke about Austria being invaded while the House was in session the friends of Ribbentrop, who associated with the Cliveden gang, had already been busy on the job. Everything was covered up until the last moment. It was the same with Prague. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, after Prague was invaded, told the House that the Government had no knowledge that Hitler was going to invade Prague, despite the fact that on 6th March the "Daily Worker" published an interview which stated that every public man in Prague expected Hitler to march in on 15th March. Yet 2499 the Government knew nothing about it. We have the finest Secret Service in the world.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones
The hon. Member has probably forgotten that the House of Commons was sitting at that very time.
§ Mr. Gallacher
That is what we were told, that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office had no knowledge that the preparations were being made for entry into Prague. If they had it they kept it hidden from the House. In the French Parliament, when M. Bonnet was questioned as to when he first had information about the intention of Hitler to invade Prague, he said he had it on 9th March, and he immediately communicated it to the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. On 17th March the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied to a question that the Government had no knowledge of Hitler's intentions. It was kept back from the House of Commons, and that is why the march was carried through without let or hindrance. If the Foreign Office had used the knowledge that it had, if the Secret Service was providing it with the information, we could have had a discussion and made communications with other countries and stopped the invasion. It is because you had a Prime Minister and a Cabinet who are more concerned with assisting the dictators, more concerned to maintain Fascism, because Fascism represents privilege and property, more concerned to assist the aggressors than to bring about unity either in this country or in Europe, that you have such a situation.
I support the Amendment as the result of my experience last year when we had the House called together in a panic, ready to do whatever the Prime Minister might suggest, and ready to carry through the grossest possible betrayal of a democratic nation. I protest against any possibility of such a thing happening again. I remember the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) stating that the House had given an exhibition of mass hysteria which did it no credit. We want no more of that. We want a normal House which can meet and seriously consider and discuss all questions that come before it on 21st August, and 2500 carry on in a normal way ready to meet any crisis that may arise.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Harold Macmillan) when he said he was filled with encouragement and reassurance by the opening remarks with which the Prime Minister introduced this Motion but, with him, I feel very grave perturbation at the tone of my right hon. Friend's remarks in replying to the Debate. It seemed to me that considering the feeling that undoubtedly exists throughout the country, this was an occasion when the Prime Minister, with a vast majority behind him, could have afforded, with grace, without any loss of face, without any loss of prestige, to make some concession to the point of view of other sections of opinion in the House. It is almost, if not entirely, unprecedented for there to be a Debate of this kind, in which feeling has run so high, on the simple question of whether this House should adjourn for its holiday. It is a matter which in the past has always been settled by common consent in all quarters of the House. It is a matter which, in my opinion, it should have been possible to agree upon without a vote and without any appeals to confidence or to party loyalty. This is not a party issue. It is a House of Commons affair. The Government have the right to advise the Crown in the exercise of its prerogative to prorogue Parliament at the end of the Session. But that is quite a different thing from the Adjournment, which is what we are to-day discussing. The question as to when and for how long we are to adjourn is clearly a matter for the House to decide and not the Government. The Prime Minister as Leader of the House and not as Leader of a party is proposing a Motion for which, I submit, he should previously have obtained agreement from all sections of opinion in the House.
I am very much distressed that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister should have thought it either necessary, wise or politic at this moment to make the issue as to whether the House should continue to sit during these two critical months, a question of confidence in himself and in his Government. This question has nothing to do with confidence. Does the Prime Minister really feel justified in treating as a question of confidence and 2501 party loyalty the very genuine desire expressed by hon. Members in different parts of the House and by the public throughout the country, that the House' of Commons, in this critical, dangerous, emergency period, should not go for its normal holiday, but should continue vigilantly to watch the affairs of the nation? This Debate has nothing to do with confidence or lack of confidence in the Government. It is concerned with the public duty of hon. Members and of the determination of the country that nothing shall be left undone that may contribute to the strengthening of the will of Great Britain at a time of grave international emergency.
I submit to hon. Members and to the Government that this House of Commons has in these times a very important function to perform. In the course of his speech the Prime Minister read a letter which he had addressed to the Leader of the Opposition last September, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman's request for the recall of Parliament. In that letter the Prime Minister said that in view of the delicate negotiations which were proceeding he did not feel that he could recall Parliament, but, that he would do so as soon as the Government were in a position to make a statement.
We all sympathise with the difficulties of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary when delicate negotiations are being conducted. As one who has served in the Foreign Office myself I am fully aware how impossible it is for a responsible Minister to discuss publicly questions upon which negotiations are being conducted with a foreign Power. But it seems to have escaped the Prime Minister's attention that there are other functions which this House has to perform besides merely receiving statements from the Government. If he had recalled Parliament earlier last September we should perfectly have understood if he had said to us that during those critical negotiations he was not in a position to make more than a few general remarks on the situation. We should not have pressed him for information which he could not properly give. That was not the reason for the request for Parliament's recall. The purpose of recalling Parliament was not primarily to receive a statement from the Government, because most of the facts were already well known to hon. Members. 2502 They had mostly appeared in the newspapers by then. The reason why the country wished Parliament to be recalled was in order that hon. Members representing as they do public opinion, should have an opportunity before it was too late and before any irrevocable decision was taken, to express to the Government the views of the British people. That is and always will be the main function of this House of Commons. I therefore ask the Prime Minister for an assurance that he will not only recall Parliament in the event of there being a need for fresh legislation or for the announcement of some change of Government policy, but that he will also in certain circumstances recall us in order to give hon. Members an opportunity to come here and to express to the Government their views on the situation. The Leader of the Opposition said that the responsibility in this matter lay with the Government. I cannot agree that the responsibility does lie with the Government. Hon. Members are deciding to-day for how long they are to adjourn. Ours is the ultimate responsibility, and one which we cannot evade. Ours will be the responsibility for the outcome of the two fateful months that lie ahead. No vote taken in this House to-day can divest the Commons of Great Britain of the responsibility which they have for the conduct of the affairs of this country.
The only reason why it is suggested that we should adjourn now, is because it is usual and normal for the House of Commons to adjourn at the end of July or the beginning of August for two or three months' holiday. But times are not normal. The Prime Minister told us a little while ago, when he introduced the Military Training Bill, that whilst this is not exactly a period of war he could not say that it was a period of peace. Times are not normal. The Fleet is mobilised, or practically mobilised. The Air Force is in a state of readiness, day and night. Anti-aircraft units of the Territorial Army are at this moment fully embodied. I myself am only able to come here on a few hours' leave from my regiment. If the danger with which we are faced is really so grave as to require these most exceptional emergency precautions which are being taken day and night to guard against the possibility of some sudden deterioration in the situation, is it unreasonable for the people of this country 2503 and for the Members who represent them here in this House to ask for some slight modification in our usual holiday plans? That is the simple question to be decided.
This was, I feel, a case where the Government could have afforded to make some concession and to reach some compromise with those who take a different view from themselves. I fully understand the Prime Minister's point of view. He feels that he is perfectly well able to manage the nation's affairs by himself and that it is unnecessary for the House to meet during the Recess. But surely he also appreciates how very undesirable it is that the House should separate with a difference of opinion on this matter.
In my view the Prime Minister would have done well to grant the Opposition's request for a one day's sitting later in August. He could have explained that he thought it unnecessary, but that he would consent to it, if only because he did not wish there to be any foundation for the suggestion that the Government were seeking to resist the House of Commons in the exercise of its functions, or to prevent hon. Members from doing what they considered to be their duty in this time of grave emergency. There is nothing more needed at this moment than national unity, and there is no man in the country who needs national unity more than the Prime Minister in the difficult tasks which lie ahead of him. I must, therefore, say how much I regret the tone of the speech which my right hon. Friend has delivered this afternoon. It has, I fear, decreased rather than increased the prospect of that national unity which we all so much desire.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Sir P. Hannon
We have heard this afternoon a very remarkable speech from the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland), and as I was partly responsible for getting him in his present seat, I am bound to apologise to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to the House, for the poisonous quality of the speech he delivered this afternoon. He suggested that in Birmingham and in his own division there was some sort of feeling—
§ Sir Richard Acland
Has the hon. Member given notice to the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) that he was going to reply?
§ Sir P. Hannon
I think the hon. Member should be here to hear the reply. In making his speech the hon. Member used language which I have rarely heard in this House with regard to the Prime Minister of the country. He suggested that there was some sort of feeling in the City of Birmingham, and in his own division in particular, because of a letter he had received from some ancient matron, who is anonymous, that the Prime Minister was pursuing a policy of dictatorship. Hon. Members will believe me that that is an idea very remote from the minds of the masses of the people of Birmingham. They have a profound belief and confidence in the Prime Minister—
§ Sir P. Hannon
No, I am not going to give way. I want to make it clear to the House that I think the speech which has been delivered by the hon. Member—
§ Sir P. Hannon
That is not my fault. I want to make clear to the House my regret and disappointment that I had anything to do with his selection as a Member of Parliament for his division.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I am not going to do that. I am here to say that the speech of the hon. Member for King's Norton does not represent in the smallest conceivable degree the opinion held of the Prime Minister by the people of Birmingham. We have profound confidence in the Prime Minister, and I regret to think that one of my colleagues in the representation of the City of Birmingham, which has played so great a part in moulding the political life of this nation, has made a speech of the quality we heard from him this afternoon.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I am not going to give way. I want to declare on behalf of the people of the city of Birmingham their profound confidence in the Prime Minister, their devotion to his policy, and their opposition to the views expressed by the hon. Member for King's Norton, and I give way to nobody while I am expressing those views. We have had a very 2505 strange Debate this afternoon. Hon Members opposite wish to tie the hands of the Prime Minister as to the time of the reassembly of Parliament if an emergency should arise.
If I have said anything which transgresses the rules I will withdraw it, but I would point out that it has been agreed by the Prime Minister himself that the Opposition placed their Amendment on the Order Paper in good faith and in the interests of the country.
§ Sir P. Hannon
My point is that the Amendment if it were passed would tie the hands of the Prime Minister as to the reassembling of Parliament. I want to conclude by saying, on behalf of my colleagues in the representation of the city of Birmingham and the Midland area—I am chairman of that body—that we profoundly disagree with the speech made by the hon. Member for King's Norton, and I wish to express on behalf of my colleagues from Birmingham our profound devotion to the Prime Minister and our complete confidence in the policy he is pursuing.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Sir R. Acland
The Prime Minister recently has been, I must say, bobbing up and down with pleasure on the Front Bench whenever he could detect any of us saying anything which seemed to suggest that we had any suspicion of any sort or any kind whatever, and the pleasure he has shown when we have expressed our suspicions suggests to me that he has in mind the conduct of an early election in which the electors will be asked to regard criticism of himself as wholly contrary to the interests of a democratic country. I wonder whether the Prime Minister has ever stopped to ask himself why it is that hon. Members of this House are bound to be a little suspicious of him at times. He is not in his place at the moment, and one can understand that, but two of his closest" colleagues are on the bench now, and I 2506 wonder whether they would convey this short point to the Prime Minister, because it might be useful in creating that national unity which we so much want.
One of the reasons why we cannot have any confidence in the Prime Minister is because we have never been able to detect in any sentence in any of the speeches he has made in this House any realisation on his part that we represent anything at all. He always treats us as though he already represented the whole nation and we on this side represented absolutely nothing. It really is impossible for us to give confidence and to contribute to unity, not only ourselves, but on behalf of the Prime Minister's fellow citizens, the people who sent us to the House, if all the time we are despised by the Prime Minister as being of no account, and if, through us, the people who sent us here are despised. After all, we on this side of the House represents 44 per cent. of the nation, and together with the Prime Minister's supporters who have taken part in the Debate to-day and who have, roughly speaking, taken the same view as we have on this matter, we must represent very nearly, if not fully, 50 per cent. of the citizens of this country, who, like the other 50 per cent. who are enthusiastically in support of the Prime Minister, will be called on to risk their lives if war should come. The Prime Minister cannot suggest, in relation to the 50 per cent. whom we represent, as against the 50 per cent. who support him, that we and our supporters have always been wrong and that he and his supporters have always been right.
It is childish for the Prime Minister and his loyal supporters to pretend that he was anything except absolutely and utterly wrong when, steadily and consistently throughout the years 1935 to 1938, he mocked and derided us because we tried to convince him that the way to secure peace was to build up a peace front of nations desiring peace against the aggressor nations. The Prime Minister cannot pretend that he was anything except absolutely and utterly wrong when he mocked us because we did not think that he could woo Mussolini out of the Axis by offering him Spain. If the Prime Minister wants that national unity without which we shall not avoid a war, or win a war if we should be involved in one, he should really try in his 2507 speeches to show that he understands that we do represent fellow citizens of his just as much as he represents fellow citizens of ours.
If he will realise that, I submit to him, through his Cabinet colleagues who are now present, that, if a position arises in which the Leader of the Official Opposition asks for the reassembly of Parliament, and if at approximately the same time, on the same date and a few hours afterwards, the Leader of the party to which I belong asks for the reassembly of Parliament, and if, shortly afterwards, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen belonging to the Prime Minister's party, some of whom have taken part in the Debate this evening, ask for the reassembly of Parliament—if, therefore, the representatives of 50 per cent. of the people of this country ask for an opportunity to be heard in Parliament—the Prime Minister cannot, and will not, turn down such a demand so supported; I submit that he will not back his personal judgment against the judgment of the representatives of half of the nation; and that if they say, "We, the responsible representatives chosen by our constituents, feel that things are going badly, that we are slipping down the slope to war, that there is danger of a war in which we and our supporters will have to fight and die, and before we reach that point we ask for an opportunity to be heard," surely, the Prime Minister cannot say that such a request will again be turned down.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Magnay
I regret the acrimonious tone of this Debate, which has done no credit to Parliament. To me, the position is quite plain. We either sit continuously from day to day from this week, or we do as the Prime Minister has suggested and meet at his discretion. I cannot see any other alternative. The arbitrary date suggested by the Opposition seems to me to have no virtue. One might as well say it should be 10th August, 28th August or any other date chosen at random. It is a purely arbitrary date, and if the prophecies that have been made to-day prove to be of substance, there is no telling whether Parliament should not be recalled long before 21st August. To suggest a fixed date of 21st August or 22nd August, as the case may be, and to reassemble, business or 2508 no business, seems to me to be sheer nonsense.
§ Mr. Gallacher rose—
§ Mr. Magnay
I will not give way to the hon. Member, for no one would give way to me when I wanted to interrupt. In his reply, the Prime Minister said what I, at any rate, was not surprised to hear. In what the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Harold Macmillan) called an adroit speech, the Prime Minister did not answer the mistakes of the Opposition; in my opinion, he answered the accusations of the Opposition—a vastly different thing. One hon. Member opposite after another said quite frankly that he did not trust the Prime Minister and would not trust him in any event. I suggest to the House, as I would suggest to any reasonable gathering of people, that if a man comes to you, be you Prime Minister or not, and says that he does not believe your word and will not believe it in any event, then you must go your own way. The Prime Minister is the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said that the Government rested here. So it does. The country knows that. If any mistake is made, there will be a way and a time in due course for the country to rectify it.
§ Mr. Magnay
These are but the ups and downs of life. The electoral temperature goes up and down, but we do not take any very serious notice of it. I submit that we either have to trust the managing director or not trust him, and I would not have intervened in the Debate were it not for the fact that all the people who are easily discontented with the Government, but who are supposed to be supporters of the Government, seem to have spoken against the Prime Minister during the last hour or two. I am certain that, speaking for the North, supporting the Government—[An Hon. Member: "What North? "]. Everybody in the North knows the name of Magnay. The hon. Member may not be known by his baptismal name, but I am. The supporters of the Government in the North trust the managing director.
What happened here last September? The same people whom we have seen waving their Order Papers here to-day, almost went down on their knees then in thankfulness to the Prime Minister. We 2509 saw the looks of relief in their faces when the Prime Minister said that he did not intend to "cash in" on his success then—the whole world being the judges of what he had done. The very same people whose relieved faces we saw then are now expressing distrust of the Prime Minister. What else do they expect the Prime Minister to do but to stand for his honour and to say, "If you do not trust me I will take care of myself and I, as the Leader of the Government, expect my friends to follow me"? That is just what hon. Members of the Opposition would be expected to do by their own leaders, and whether they liked it or not, they would have to sign on the dotted line. It is only fair and reasonable that the Prime Minister should expect those who support him in the Government and in the country, to support him to-night in the Division Lobby.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morgan
I want to pay my tribute to the courageous speech of the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland). It was a speech such as I do not expect to hear again in this House for some time. It was not the speech of a man who was stabbing his own party in the back, though it might be so interpreted in some quarters. I do not want to go into that aspect of it at all. I regard it as the speech of a man who has consistently, in this House—and we have watched him—tried to gather together all the elements in this House that could get the backing of the country, for the purpose of facing the situation which we have to face. It was a speech which indicated what the quality of this Debate ought to have been, but I feel that the last contribution to the Debate showed signs of succumbing to the poison which the hon. Member himself was denouncing. I am very sorry that the Debate got to that level, even with the hon. Member. I feel that the only way in which we can answer the issue raised in this Debate is to ask ourselves: What would the country as a whole think of us if we were to decide, even if only in principle, to come back earlier from our holidays than the Prime Minister proposes?
Would the country think better of us if we took a decision of that kind to-day? I believe they would. I believe the people would think more of this House as an institution and have a greater respect for 2510 us as a political force, if we took that course, which would reflect the views of the country at large. That should be the sole test of our behaviour here to-day. Would the country as a whole think better of us and of the service which we can render if we were to take such a stand? The people of this country are as uneasy as most of us to-day. They have probably a more perceptive instinct than we have and they recognise that Herr Hitler has already taken his holidays. They ask why should be want to take his holidays in June and July? Probably, they say, in order to get down to business in August and September. That is the general feeling of the man in the street and he sees us about to go on our holidays, just when Herr Hitler is about to get to work. That is putting the matter in a nutshell. The public mind would have been more satisfied if people knew that we were anticipating such a manoeuvre and were showing a greater readiness than hon. Members opposite have shown to take the proper steps to meet those activities abroad.
I believe that the Prime Minister in his second speech to-night was not directing his attack at hon. Members on this side. I believe the right hon. Gentleman sensed a breakaway on his own side and a lack of party loyalty on his own benches and that he issued a kind of ultimatum. His speech was not directed towards reproving our attitude. He was exercising a strict party control over those Members who had attempted to express views different from those in his own mind and those reflected by his decision in this matter. But the right hon. Gentleman's words aroused a speech of a kind that will live long in the memory of this House, in spite of the way in which the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) dealt with it. The hon. Member for Moseley showed the extremely possessive sense of some hon. Members opposite in reference to Parliamentary seats. First he spoke of the constituency of the hon. Member for King's Norton as if it were his own and then he talked about "my own city of Birmingham." It is fortunate that a new voice is about to be heard in this House on behalf of Wales and hardly any hon. Member opposite will now lay claim to any proprietary rights in that part of the British electorate.
2511 There is no good in attempting to dismiss the speech of the hon. Member for King's Norton as the hon. Member for Moseley sought to do. That speech reflects a very fine spirit. It is the kind of speech which, if responded to in this House, would do more good, would give public opinion more reason to believe in this House as an institution, and would make a better contribution to the national spirit than the Prime Minister's second speech. That, I believe, will be the reflection of most hon. Members tomorrow morning. I think they will realise the anxiety of the public in seeing Parliament break up for such a long period at this time; they will realise that the Prime Minister to-night has behaved in a strictly party sense and that that is not the mood of the moment in this country.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I have been attempting to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker for the last 4½hours and I hope the House will not think it ungracious of me if I attempt to detain them for a few minutes longer on this subject. In his concluding speech the Prime Minister turned this vote into one of confidence in himself and his Government. I regret that my right hon. Friend has done so, but as a supporter of the Government I feel that I have no alternative but to answer that call from the leader of the Government. I therefore propose to vote for the Government this evening but I wish to put it on record that I regard the Government's action as a mistake. I think it was a mistake to suggest that Parliament should, at this time, adjourn for eight weeks. It seems to me, if I may respectfully say so, a still greater mistake that my right hon. Friend towards the end of a Debate which has already lasted over four hours should persist in that view.
Up to the time of the Prime Minister's second speech only two speakers in any part of the House had supported the Government. One was the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) and the other was the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). We like both hon. Members personally and we admire the sincerity with which they express their views but we know that they represent, not the great majority of Government supporters but the small group of diehard 2512 Tories in this House. They opposed and attacked the Government and in particular my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the Government were carrying through great constitutional reforms for India. They have made the Prime Minister's course in this Parliament difficult whenever he was progressive and indeed representing the national view. It is significant that the only two Members on the Government side who to-day, after the Prime Minister's speech, have supported the Government's attitude are those two hon. Members. Their views are not representative of the Government parties. With the greatest respect to my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench, I do not think they understand the real feelings of their own Members upon this matter. I believe that if they were to interview their own Members individually, they would find, as indeed this Debate shows, that the great majority of us on this side would like the Prime Minister to have made some concession. [Hon. Members: "No! "] Well, that is the view which I take, and I contend that the course of this Debate proves it to be well founded.
Is it too late for the Government to consider some way of meeting what I regard as almost an 80 per cent. view of this House of Commons, and, as I understand it, almost an 80 per cent. view of the country? What is that view? It is that at a moment when all of us, and particularly the people outside, think that war may come next week, or the week after, or the week after that, this is not the time for Parliament to rise and to go away, scattering throughout the world, for two months. The Prime Minister did not even make an appeal to us to-day, as he might properly have done, at least to stay within the shores of this country. There was no suggestion that we should be doing our duty by biding here at Westminster. Some of us may be going abroad, to America, South Africa, or anywhere else. Is that right at this time? The country and the House of Commons having, as I think, in such plain terms expressed the view which they hold on this subject, is it not the duty of the Government in this democratic Assembly to accede to that view?
I see sitting on the Treasury Bench the Minister for Air. I remember in this House a series of Debates, and one Debate 2513 in particular, in which the House obviously was dissatisfied with the management of the Air Ministry. We had questions for days and weeks upon that matter, and there was a Debate raised by an hon. Member on the Government side, after which the Government were compelled by the views of this House to accept a new view. They had to reverse their own decision. The Government did so then graciously, because they felt it their duty to accede to the wishes of this Chamber. There have been innumerable occasions on which the Government have so acceded to the views of this House, and I have taken pride in my constituency in citing these examples to show that this Government is not a dictatorship, but that it meets, as far as it can, the generally expressed opinion of this Assembly. There has never been, in my six years in this House, a Debate in which there has been a nearer approach to unanimity of opinion than to-day. I repeat that up to the time of the Prime Minister's second speech only two out of, I think, 21 speeches favoured the Government's policy.
§ Sir H. Croft
It is quite clear that the vast majority of the supporters of the Government were quite satisfied with the Prime Minister's speech, and is it not a fact that the discordant voices are only those which have consistently since Munich opposed the Government?
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I do not want to go into the question of the Munich Agreement. I voted for it with some difficulty, but questions of confidence in the Prime Minister or personal issues of any kind have for me nothing to do with the matter now under discussion. They do not seem to me to apply at all. [Interruption.] I am putting what I believe is a good House of Commons view. I desire to be regarded as a good House of Commons man, and it is the House of Commons view, and that view alone, that I seek to put to-night. The Government, having received a very widely expressed opinion, they should at this time do something to meet that view. It would be well if, from to-night's Debate, there went out to the world another victory for Parliament. Would that be anything dishonourable? On the contrary, it would be a great honour for democracy if at a moment when dictatorship is undermining freedom in many lands, this House were to register to-night a 2514 victory over the Executive. The Executive could meet that victory with grace and with honour, and I beg my right hon. Friends somehow to enable us to do what is right by Parliament on this solemn occasion.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Nicholson
I claim to be as good a House of Commons man as my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), and I do not wish this Debate to finish on the note that he has struck. I would give anything at this moment to have some prestige in this House, because I believe that it needs a speech on the lines that Lord Haldane used to give the House to recall hon. Members to the solemnity of the occasion on which we meet, to recall to the House the real need for national unity at this time, but not that national unity that has been exemplified by those who have spoken for it to-day. They seem to me to be like the young men one reads about in the papers, who hit their young ladies over the head with a brick in order to make them love them. I think that national unity means real sacrifices, and I suggest to the House that, at a time when we may be on the very brink of the abyss, this House has disgraced itself and done shameful work to-day in appealing to the hatred and the bitterness that have been aroused. I feel that very strongly.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has, I admit, committed a most awful crime. He has made up his mind and stuck to his opinion, a frightful crime. Hon. Members on all sides of the House are entitled to differ from the Prime Minister, but I submit that if hon. Members have a due sense of the solemnity of the occasion and of the gravity of the peril in which we stand, they will to-morrow morning regret the attitude that they have taken in this Debate. I shall try to show my desire and my zeal for national unity by backing up the man who, after all, has our lives in his hands in his determination to stick to his opinion. I have been critical of the Prime Minister very often, but on this occasion I believe that national unity calls for all of us to submit our personal judgment to the desire expressed by the man who has our destinies in his hands. I hope hon. Members will forgive me when I say that if 2515 it has done nothing else, the Debate today has shown that hon. Members on all sides of the House have been lacking in their usual judgment.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) has referred to the solemnity of the occasion, and remembering my surname, I think I should take some part in this great solemnity. Inside this House we have heard to-day many voices which have claimed to be the authentic voices of various districts. We have had one hon. Member representing one of the Birmingham seats talking as if he represented Birmingham alone, and yet in this Debate we have had two speeches from representatives of Birmingham Divisions, one from the right hon. Member for the Sparkbrook Division (Mr. Amery) and the other from the hon. Member for the King's Norton Division (M. Cartland), which were diametrically opposed to the speech of the hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Sir P. Hannon). The Prime Minister also speaks as a representative of one of the Birmingham seats. So the Birmingham representatives have scored two goals each and it is a draw. Then another hon. Member got up and claimed, in a loud voice, that he was the voice of the north. One or two of my friends say that might mean that he was the voice of the North Pole. I come from the north. I have 10 colleagues in this House who come from the north, from Durham County. I claim that I can speak on behalf of Durham County and that no one can say me nay. The voice of the 11 Members representing Durham County in this House, Socialist Members, is against this proposal of the Prime Minister to have an extended holiday.
We believe that we are in for another Munich. This Government ran away from collective security and now it is crawling back to it. This Government has dawdled and diddled along the road to a peace bloc with Russia. We in Durham County are not satisfied that the Prime Minister and the Government intend to be in earnest on that matter, or why all this great delay? So I could not let the opportunity pass without replying to the voice of the north by letting this House and the country know that as far as Durham County is concerned it is a case 2516 of "Once bitten, twice shy." Whe were "once bitten" last year over the Munich question, and we want to be present this time to prevent being bitten a second time. Now that I have referred to the voices in this House may I draw attention to voices outside this House? In Colne Valley and at Brecon voices outside this House have shown that they have no trust in this Government. Therefore, many of the people of the country, having no trust in the Government, will not be satisfied if we go away on an extended holiday.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Commander Bower
I have never spoken very long in this House, and tonight I propose to speak for only a couple of minutes, but as one of those who was opposed to the Government upon Munich I think that perhaps I have a right to say one or two words. Last year I took no exception to what the Prime Minister did in that tragic week in September, but I did take exception to the foreign policy which led up to those events, and I am a little bit afraid that something of that sort might happen again, although after what has happened to-day and the general sense of the House which has been expressed I really do not take that danger very seriously. I think that Parliament was called together much too late last year, but after to-day's Debate I cannot help feeling there is no danger of that happening again. There is one thing that, I think, everybody in this country realises, and that is that there can never be another Munich. The country would never stand for it—whether it be a Munich ever Danzig or a yellow one in the Far East. But I do not want to talk too much about Munich. I regard that as one of those far off, unhappy things which are much better forgotten.
But I do want to suggest one thing to my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, and that is that it is perfectly fatuous to suppose that national unity exists at the moment. Does it? We go to our constituencies—I know my constituency very well; I represent a part of the world I have known all my life—and we know it does not exist, and it is folly on the part of the Central Office or anybody else to suppose that it does, and we may as well face the fact. There is certainly a great measure of agreement 2517 on our foreign policy, but there is a distinct measure of disagreement as to the methods employed in carrying it out and whether the present Government are best fitted to carry it out. Personally, I think that they are far better fitted to carry it out than anybody else. I have not always been whole-hearted in my support of the Government's foreign policy, but to-day I feel that they are, taking it by and large, the better fitted to carry it out. There I will leave it.
I want to add this, that as one of those who have been very much concerned about the Government's policy and has insistently advocated a stronger line—like many hon. Members on this side of the House I have got into trouble for it in my constituency—I find that lately I have not been getting into trouble over it nearly so much as was the case a short time ago. I hate saying "I told you so," and I am not going to say it. Tonight the Prime Minister has said that this is virtually a matter of confidence. Like my hon. Friend who sits below me, I am very sorry indeed that the Prime Minister has said so, and I propose to follow him into the Lobby to-night; but before doing so I want to express my regret that he has made this a question of confidence, because I do not think it ought to have been, and I am going into that Lobby with the Government to-night only because of that fact.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont
I—[Hon. Members: "Divide"]—I am not one who frequently exercises the privilege of addressing this House, and I hope that I may ask for the courtesy, which I know I shall receive, of a hearing for two or three minutes. I fully realise the desire of hon. Members, expressed so frequently, that a Division should be taken, but as the Debate has gone on for so long I trust I may be privileged to make one or two observations. I hope that I shall not be thought disrespectful in what I am going to say, but when the Prime Minister was speaking, and realising the gravity and danger of the situation, my mind harked back to another historic occasion in this House many years ago when a Prime Minister told a gentleman who had set up a case of rather doubtful quality, "Cease this fooling." I rather felt, when the Prime Minister was speaking to-day, that he had not a full sense of the grave 2518 seriousness of the occasion. This Debate will possibly rank as a historic Debate in the annals of this country. It may equally rank as a tragic Debate. The situation is much too grave for us to trust ourselves in the hands of any one man. Our claim is that if great decisions are to be made they should be made by Parliament itself and not by any one man or set of men.
It is because we on this side of the House, as well as hon. and right hon. Members in other parts of the House, fear that the situation may so develop that before Parliament can be brought together not only may tragic decisions be taken but grave steps may be taken that we feel that we are not asking a great deal in putting forward this Amendment. We understand and appreciate that the Prime Minister and his Ministers will be in session in London during the next few weeks. All we ask him is that they shall have the opportunity of getting the advice and, if need be, the support of Parliament in any steps that may be necessary. The speech of the Prime Minister—if I may say so as one who comes from Birmingham and has a great love for the city—made me wonder how it would have been regarded by his father, who loved his country so well. The speech was largely one of carping criticism of the statements that had been made. I submit that those who have urged on all sides of the House that Parliament should be called together have not done it in any party sense, but in the desire to serve the wellbeing of the country and the interests of the whole nation.
We have been told within the last few minutes that we have to trust the one man, but I think that the Prime Minister has demonstrated that he has not sensed the real feeling of the country on this matter. Can we, therefore, assume that he will sense the real feeling of the country, when a great crisis has arrived? He said that the security of the Government rested on the confidence of the House, but I submit, with all humility, that the security of the country rests with this House showing its lack of confidence in the Government. We have to encourage the people of the country to believe that Parliament is alive and alert, and is looking after the interests of the country. Can the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that if we go into Recess 2519 the people of the country will think that Parliament is doing its duty? What we have asked is that Parliament shall be assembled so that it will give full weight of authority to any grave decisions which may have to be made. We all
§ sincerely trust that the crisis will pass, but if the crisis comes upon us Parliament should be asembled to deal with it.
§ Question put, "That 'Tuesday, 3rd October' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 250; Noes, 132.2521
|Division No. 293.]||AYES.||[9.19 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Dunglass, Lord||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Eastwood, J. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's.)||Emmott, C. E. G. C||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Assheton, R.||Errington, E.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Magnay, T.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Maitland, Sir Adam|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Fildes, Sir H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Fleming, E. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Markham, S. F.|
|Balniel, Lord||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Furness, S. N.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Granville, E. L.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Bower. Comdr. R. T.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Munro, P.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Brabner, R. A.||Grimston, R. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hambro, A. V.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Hammersley, S. S.||Peat, C. U.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hannah, I. C.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Harbord, Sir A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Bull, B. B.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Pilkington, R.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Procter, Major H. A,|
|Butcher, H. W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Purbrick, R.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Higgs, W. F.||Pym, L. R.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Radford, E. A.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Cary, R. A.||Holmes, J. S.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Channon, H.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Chapman, A. (Ruthergien)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Remer, J. R.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Jennings, R.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Keeling, E. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Kellett, Major E. O.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Critchley, A.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cross, R. H.||Kimball, L.||Salt, E. W.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Scott, Lord William|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Latham, Sir P.||Selley, H. R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Shakespeare, G. H|
|De Chair, S. S.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|De la Bère, R.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Levy, T.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Denville, Alfred||Liddall, W. S.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lindsay, K. M.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. C.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Drewe, C.||Lloyd, G. W.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Loftus, P. C.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R, J.|
|Spens, W. P.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Touche, G. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Storey, S.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Wakefield, W. W.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||York, C.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Tate, Mavis C.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.||Captain Waterhouse and Major|
|Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wells, Sir Sydney||Sir James Edmondson.|
|Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Hell, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Poole, C. C.|
|Adams, D. (Consatt)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hardie, Agnes||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Alaxander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'tsbr.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ridley, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Riley, B.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefrast)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Batey, J.||Hollins, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hopkinson, A.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Horabin, T. L.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jagger, J.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||John, W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Silkin, L.|
|Cape. T.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Chater, D.||Kirby, B. V.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Sloan, A.|
|Collindridge, F.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Daggar, G.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dalton, H.||Lee, F.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Stephen, C.|
|Davies, S. 0. (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Day, H.||Lunn, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Dobbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dunn, E. (Rather Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Tomlinson, G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Mander, G. le M.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Evans, D. 0. (Cardigan)||Maxton, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Messer, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Gallacher, W.||Milner, Major J.||Whiteley, W. (Blayden)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilmot, John|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Oliver, G. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Owen, Major G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Groves, T. E.||Paling, W.|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (lslington, N.)||Parkinson, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pearson, A.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
§ Question put,
" That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 3rd October; provided that if it is represented to Mr. Speaker by His Majesty's Government that the public. interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier time during the Adjournment, and Mr. Speaker is satisfied that the public interest does so require, he may give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and the Government Business to be transacted on the day on which the House shall so meet shall, subject to the publication of notice thereof in the Order Paper to be circulated on the day on which the House shall so meet, be such as the Government may 2522 appoint, but subject as aforesaid the House shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to the day on which it shall so meet, and any Government Orders of the Day and Government Notices of Motions that may stand on the Order Book for the 3rd day of October or any subsequent day shall be appointed for the day on which the House shall so meet; provided also that in the event of Mr. Speaker being unable to act owing to illness or other cause the Chairman of Ways and Means, in his capacity as Deputy-Speaker, be authorised to act in his stead for the purposes of this Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 245; Noes, 129.2523
|Division No. 294.]||AYES.||[9.29 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Petherick, M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Gower, Sir R. V.||Pilkington, R.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Porritt, R. W.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Granville, E. L.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Purbrick, R.|
|Assheton, R.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Pym, L. R.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Grimston, R. V.||Radford, E. A.|
|Baillie. Sir A. W. M.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Hambro, A. V.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Hammersley, S. S.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Hannah, I. C.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Harbord, Sir A.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Remer, J. R.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Higgs, W. F.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Brabner, R. A.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Brass, Sir W.||Holmes, J. S.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Horsbrugh, Florence||Salt, E. W.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Scott, Lord William|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Selley, H. R.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Jennings, R.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Keeling, E. H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Kellett, Major E. O.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Cary, R. A.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Channon, H.||Kimball, L.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Spens, W. P.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Latham, Sir P.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Storey, S.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Strauss, H. G (Norwich)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Levy, T.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Liddall, W. S.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Critchley, A.||Lindsay, K. M.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lloyd, G. W.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Loftus. P. C.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Touche, G. C.|
|De Chair, S. S.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|De la Bère, R.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Denville, Alfred||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Donner, P. W.||Magnay, T.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Drewe, C.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Markham, S. F.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Marsden, Commander A.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Errington, E.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Nall, Sir J.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Fleming, E. L.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J,||York, C.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Furness, S. N.||Peat, C. U.||Mr. Munro and Major Sir James|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Edmondson.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pearson, A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Poole, C. C.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hardie, Agnes||Price, M. P.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ritson, J.|
|Batey, J.||Hollins, A.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Beaumont, H, (Batley)||Horabin, T. L.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jagger, J.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jenkine, A. (Pontypool)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bevan, A.||John, W.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Chater, D.||Kirby, B. V.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cluse. W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Collindridge, F.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sloan, A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Daggar, G.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Dalton, H.||Lee, F.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Day, H.||Lunn, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Dobbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Thurtle, E.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Mander, G. le M.||Viant, S. P.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Mathers, G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Foot, D. M.||Maxton, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gallacher, W.||Messer, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilmot, John|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hamsworth)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Groves, T. E.||Owen, Major G.|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parkinson, J. A.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Adamson.|
Question put, and agreed to.