Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 25th October.—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
I do not believe that the House of Commons should adjourn for a holiday at this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have been in the House of Commons the comparatively short time of nearly ten years and I have never attempted to take up the time of the House frivolously. I take up the time of the House this afternoon only because I feel so intensely that this is a serious time, both for the future of Britain and of those people for whom we have considerable responsibility, particularly those in Africa.
I should like, as would all other hon. Members, to spend the next few weeks, and, indeed, the next three months, with my constituents. I believe, however, that they can well do without me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am delighted to find the tremendous support from both sides of the House for my plea that we should not agree to this Motion, except under certain conditions.
The situation in Africa is so charged with difficulty, so prone to misunderstandings and sudden conflagration, as, indeed, there is at the moment, that it is not fair to leave the whole matter in the hands of Her Majesty's Government without being able to have the advice of the back benchers of the House of Commons in coming to a decision.
It may be asked, why not leave the affairs of the Congo and of United Nations troops during the holidays to Her Majesty's Government? The reason why I would not like to leave it to Her Majesty's Government—and I must be frank—is that I believe that Her Majesty's Government are paralysed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] This may evoke a certain amount of laughter on the Government Front Bench, but, quite frankly, the prospect of going on holiday when the Government are in the state of being completely unable to make up their mind about the future of these grave questions does not cause me any merriment at all.
1304 We are now talking about adjourning for three solid months, when, in the past few weeks, we have had an appeal from a friend for help, and that has been turned down. We have even had a further appeal for help from a friend, and that has also been turned down, and we are now in the extraordinary position that we are about to go on holiday for three months with no indication what the Government's policy is in regard to the situation in the Congo and that part of Africa.
I am most worried because of a statement which was made yesterday by the Foreign Secretary. I am trying very carefully, Mr. Speaker, to keep within the bounds of order, because I do not want to take up the time of the House from the disarmament debate, though, possibly, we should be talking about arming the Africans against the poverty and insecurity which they now have rather than disarmament. I want to give my reasons why I do not think we should leave the Government to carry on purely in their own summary sort of way in the next three months.
In reply to a Question yesterday, the Foreign Secretary said, and I quote from HANSARD:I hope the United Nations Secretary-General will act in a mediatory role and will succeed in solving the constitutional problem, but it is not for me to express an opinion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 1060.]The first thing I have to say about that is: why express an opinion, if it was not for my right hon. and learned Friend to express one? The second thing is that I have never understood why—and I know I am getting close to going beyond the rules of order here—the Secretary-General of the United Nations should have any part in solving the constitutional problem of the Congo. I have been informed that the United Nations forces have gone in there—and this has great relevance to the question whether or not we should adjourn for three months—for the exclusive and sole purpose of protecting life and restoring public order in that territory.
§ Mr. Fell
I thank the hon. Member.
1305 It is impossible for United Nations forces to go into that territory—when there is a Prime Minister who has never been a Prime Minister, a Government which has never been a Government—without it having a political effect on the Constitution of that country. I am extremely worried about what is to happen, mainly in Katanga, but in general in other parts of the Congo, during the time that we shall be in recess. I am worried not only because of Katanga Province, not only because of the Congo itself, but because of the tremendous effect that the resolution of all these difficulties will have on the whole of Africa, and, indeed, on other parts of the world as well.
We have already seen, and we have not even been in recess, the effect of the fleeing, perhaps needless fleeing, of whites from Katanga on other Africans in closely related parts of Africa. We do not know is how great will be the effect of arty wrong decision, or, even more, of indecision on the part of Her Majesty's Government during the Recess, if they are no: supported and helped by the back benchers of the House of Commons.
I want to cut my speech as short as possible, and I will say practically no more, but I would certainly—
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The hon. Member is making the point that United Nations forces have no right, under international law or any other law, to enter the Congo. Would he agree that these forces have as much right to go into the Congo as the forces which he supported had in going into Suez?
§ Mr. Speaker
I did not understand the hut. Member to be making that point, but if he was, he has gone out of the limits of the rules of order in this context.
§ Mr. Fell
On your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I cannot reply to that interruption, but may I say that if I am called a rebel for supporting right causes, perhaps it would be well were we all rebels.
I wish to have an assurance from the Prime Minister—and I am sorry that he cannot be present, though I completely understand—if I am to support this Motion, that Parliament will be recalled if our friend, the friend of the West, Mr. Tshombe, should at any time make 1306 another appeal to this country or to any of our friends. Secondly, I should like to have an assurance that Parliament will be recalled immediately if there is any substantial talk of United Nations forces entering into the State of Katanga.
Thirdly, and I do not make this a condition—[Laughter.] All right, I am only one Member, but I have a right to make conditions. I do not make this a condition, but I would ask that the Government will recall Parliament within a fortnight—[An HON. MEMBER: "So soon?"]—in any case. I know that some people will be at Scarborough, that sensible people will be in Great Yarmouth, and that some will be at Cannes. But I ask the Government to recall Parliament to discuss the latest developments in this matter, at any rate between two and three weeks from the time when we go into recess, because I do not believe that it is right that we should leave this whole matter in the air, as we shall be leaving it on Friday, for three months, if things remain as they are.
I make this appeal in all humility, not in any way wishing to stop anybody's fun, but wanting to see that Britain, who has, after all, brought upon herself these tremendous responsibilities, not only in Africa but in many other parts of the world, shall not worry about a few weeks' holiday, but will preserve a sense of duty towards her responsibilities.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
I find myself in agreement with much of what the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) has said, although I must say that in relation to the problem of Katanga the Government have so far taken an attitude which I am sure will meet with the broad approval of most right hon. and hon. Members of the House. I want, however, to speak about British responsibilities in Rhodesia.
I believe that a situation has developed in Southern Rhodesia, where a large section of the population there is being threatened by disorders, that it is necessary that the United Kingdom should exercise its responsibilities in regard to that territory. It is quite obvious that the caretaker Administration of Sir Edgar Whitehead, which represents only a tiny minority of the population of Southern Rhodesia, is quite unable to 1307 obtain the good will and support of the overwhelming mass of the population in Southern Rhodesia, even of the European minority, and I should be very unhappy if we were to adjourn for three months while the situation in Southern Rhodesia gets out of hand without back benchers on both sides of the House being able to influence the Government in the action they take in regard to the situation there.
I should like to ask the Leader of the House to give assurances to the House on two counts. First, that he, as Leader of the House, during the Recess will ensure that all Members of Parliament will be able to exercise their responsibilities in any territory in Africa for which we are responsible. That is the first point I want him to give us an assurance about.
The other assurance I want is that in view of the fact that the questions raised by hon. Members during the Recess must be made by correspondence, because the House is not sitting—I would ask the Leader of the House to pay careful attention to this—and in view of the fact that we must make representations direct to Ministers, can we have an assurance that our correspondence to Ministers will remain confidential and will be dealt with personally by Ministers and not be passed on to other Governments for them to deal in matters with which Members of the House are concerned?
I ask for an assurance from the Leader of the House about the situation in Southern Rhodesia in regard to the revision of the Constitution. We understand that there will be an official deputation in September leaving for Southern Rhodesia to continue discussions on the future of the Southern Rhodesian Constitution. We have already had an assurance in the House from the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations that there will be no change in the Southern Rhodesian Constitution, no withdrawal of the protective clauses which enable the United Kingdom to protect the rights of Africans in that territory, unless African interests are considered. We have had that categorical assurance.
The point I want to have an assurance on is that there will be no deal made in September with the Government of Sir Edgar Whitehead in Southern Rhodesia 1308 without this House being recalled and being consulted about a matter which is of great concern to 2½ million Africans in that territory.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
I rise to support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). The proposition before the House is that we should adjourn at the end of this week for three months and that as individual, private Members of Parliament we should abdicate our responsibilities and hand them over to a Government whose Foreign Secretary is unknown to us and whose policy is undecided.
I myself have no criticism of the choice of the Foreign Secretary being from either this House or from the other. It seems to me that the one all-important thing in these matters is that one should pick the right person, and that it is the right person and the right policies which are the ones to be supported. But when we do not appear at this moment to know who the person is, whether he be right or wrong, and what the policies are, whether they be right or wrong, it appears to be the wrong moment at which to foreclose on our responsibilities and hand them over to a Government whose policy is uncertain.
When situations such as this in the Congo, situations both dangerous and volatile, are likely to spark off controversies, perhaps hatred, perhaps bitterness, perhaps bloodshed in Africa, it is not the moment for this House smugly, comfortably and conveniently to go away to the hot and sunny climes or to the wet and windy shores of Britain.
There is no effective central Government in the Congo and there has not been effective Government or an effective State in the Congo since the advent of what has been called independence. There has been chaos; there has been rape; there has been anarchy; and there has been bloodshed. There has been, in addition, the accusation that the Belgians abdicated their responsibilities and left chaos behind.
Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth because the Belgians left in the Congo people capable of carrying on the administration.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must remind the hon. Member and the House that there are limits to this range, and we cannot.. on this Motion, debate the merits of any issue there arising.
§ Mr. Williams
I thank you for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but we are deciding here today—are we not?—whether we can hand over responsibility for guiding it foreign policy for three months to a Foreign Secretary who, at the moment, is unknown to us, and I think that we are entitled to ask of the Government a very clear statement of what their policy is—[HON MEMBERS: "Ask whom?"]—in this particular part of Africa for the next three months. As my hon. Friend has said, a colleague, a friend of the West, has appealed for help and for recognition. We have turned the other cheek. Are we to continue to turn the other cheek throughout the Recess? Are we to continue to let the United Nations: conduct our foreign policy? Indeed, who today is conducting our foreign policy?
Only this morning, in the B.B.C.'s news bulletins at 7.30, and again at 8.30 Mr. Hammarskjoeld is reported as having assured Mr. Lumumba that "there is no question of recognising Katanga." This is a most extraordinary statement.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am sorry, but if I do not venture to hint some restraint to the hon. Member the debate will depart from the confines desired. The hon. Member is now transgressing beyond the limits of the Motion.
§ Mr. Williams
I want to come immediately to the point of my speech and ask: what is our foreign policy? Have we a foreign policy? Or are we playing it through the United Nations? Have the Government Front Bench decided what is to be Britain's new policy? If so, is not the House entitled to know before we go into recess for three months? The Foreign Secretary has said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"]—that the United Nations is not entitled to interfere in the internal matters of the Congo. Well, then, what is to be the situation of United Nations troops? The Government Front Bench halve been partly responsible for guidance in these matters.
1310 Surely, before we go into recess we should be assured by the Foreign Secretary, or, if he is not available, by a representative of the Foreign Office, or at least a Government spokesman, how United Nations troops are to be used. Before we pass this Motion we must be given an unequivocal and clear statement, if such a thing be possible from the Government, before the Recess, before we sanction this Motion, that they will support strength, that they will support friends, and that they will work for the maintenance of the economic and strategic interests of the Commonwealth. At present, there is no indication that they are aware of these needs.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
It is a long time since any of us have heard so clear and unequivocal a demonstration of no confidence in a Government by their supporters as we have been treated to in the last ten minutes. It is the first occasion for a long time on which I have found myself, at least on one point, in complete agreement with both speakers from the Government side of the House. Indeed, there is much to be said for their view.
I am not myself so greatly worried by the question whether the Foreign Secretary, after the next day or two, is to be a Member of the House of Commons or a Member of another place. It has always seemed to me that as long as the master ventriloquist remains a Member of the House of Commons it does not greatly matter where Archie Andrews sits. Therefore, I think it is possible to exaggerate the importance of that aspect of the matter.
It is certainly true that not for twenty years has the House come to the end of a Session and to the verge of going off for its long Summer Recess with the world so dangerous and frightening as it is today. It is not only Africa. I do not dissent from the view that events now taking place in the Congo are matters which have an important bearing on peace generally and on a great many questions outside their own borders and, indeed, outside Africa altogether. But I would say, on that point, that it is really not much use blaming the United Nations about it. If it were not for our membership of the United Nations, and for the existence of such an organisation, 1311 hon. Members must realise that this country would have no right to interfere at all.
§ Mr. Silverman
I was not proposing to debate it, Sir. It was only a point of reassurance to hon. Members opposite that on this particular matter the Government, if they wish to exercise their authority, are in a position to do at any rate something about it and take some action to bring to bear some influence in the Congo, whereas hon. Members are thinking that they are in no position to do that except by taking action pregnant with even more perilous consequences than is the situation at present.
Although one realises that the African situation is as dangerous as they say it is, that point by itself would not have influenced me to support the Motion, because I would have taken some comfort from the fact that we are members of an international organisation which is trying to bring to bear some pacific influence. I do not think that there is any dispute about that. But there are a great many other causes of anxiety. It is not only Africa. There is this whole business of international espionage, not by the use of ordinary spies but by the use of the armed forces of one country or another in the territory of another, or so close to the territory of another as to lead to international incidents.
I would not feel that it was safe for the House of Commons to adjourn for a long time without any assurance that some method for removing from the world this exceedingly perilous situation was not at least under active consideration. There is some question of the proposed resumption of nuclear tests. It has been very-clearly announced in the United States, by both parties, that there is to be a stepping-up of arms expenditure at a time when we are all deploring other people's refusal to discuss disarmament agreements with us.
I am not saying one word about the merits or about whose is the responsibility, but at a time when all of us know that the peace of the world must depend in the end on finding some agreed way of bringing this competition in nuclear armament to an end, to adjourn for three 1312 months—at a time when one major country, the most powerful of all, is proposing not to reduce but to increase its expenditure—is really frightening. We should like to know from the Government, before we accept their Motion, what they intend to do in this matter as well as in some others.
I ventured to say a frivolous word about the controversy as to where the Foreign Secretary ought to be, but surely there is no possible ground for difference on the suggestion that came from the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) a few moments ago. At least let us know, before we adjourn, who, in the next three months, will speak for Britain in the councils of the world. We do not know. It is not a question whether he sits in one House or the other. The point is that neither House will be sitting for the next three months.
We ought to know who will speak for us, and something of what he is going to say, and not merely shut up shop and go away for three months with nothing dealt with, nothing known, no authorised spokesman, and no policy. When we reach a situation where hon. Members who are nominally supporters of the Government can make the kind of speech that was made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South it shows a situation in which the House of Commons might very well refuse to adjourn until it has a Government and a policy of which it can approve.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) were anxious that back benchers should not abdicate their responsibilities. I am more anxious that Her Majesty's Government should not abdicate their responsibilities before the House and the nation for British lives and British property and British interests in Central Africa. I am anxious that they should not deposit their responsibilities at the feet of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Would the hon. Member also agree that we should not transfer our responsibilities to Sir Roy Welensky and Sir Edgar Whitehead?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
That is a very silly intervention. Our Government will not transfer their responsibilities where they lie to any other Government.
Yesterday, the House touched for a few moments on the provocative, irresponsible and inflammatory statement made by a servant of the United Nations, General van Horn.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Is it not a fact that he has denied making the statement attributed to him?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
In that case, I am very glad to hear it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Certainly; I take what my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Hall) has said and I withdraw that. I am glad to hear that no such statement was made, but yesterday we should have liked to have heard this denial from a Minister sitting on the Treasury Bench. We asked to be reassured on these matters and we had no reassurance.
I am glad that the reassurance has now come—not from one of Her Majesty's Ministers but from one of my hon. Friends. [An HON. MEMBER: "Make him Foreign Secretary."] This is a serious question. The population of a vast country, the size of Western Europe, is to be the subject of new experiments in international colonialism. They face the possibility of hunger and disease. We are thinking of holidays, yet millions there are facing misery.
Another reason why I am doubtful whether we should go away without a clear statement of the position of Her Majesty's Government is the grave threat from all this to Britain's relations with Belgium and Belgium's relations with the other Western allies. A campaign of propaganda against Belgium has been going on, and, so far as I know, it has not yet been rebutted by any spokesman of Her Majesty's Government. It is simply not true to say that the chaos in the Congo is just the fault of the Belgians What did we do? What did the United Nations do? The Belgians left there trained men to try to help the new Government of the Congo Republic.
What happened to some of them, what happened to some of their wives and 1314 children, is unbearable to think of even in this twentieth century of cruelty and horror. It should not be allowed to be said in this country without rebuttal that it is all the fault of the Belgians.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I felt very strongly that before we go away we should hear something in reply to an accusation and propaganda so dangerous to our relations with an ally and to the Western alliance as a whole.
I hope that we may hear something from the Government Front Bench about the Belgian bases in the Congo and about the treaty of friendship and assistance. We are told on some sides that there was no treaty, but may we be told what the situation is, because this is of the first importance to the Western alliance and to the security of Africa?
I do not want to detain the House longer with further mention of the question of Katanga—my views on the matter are set forth in a Motion bearing my name and the names of hon. Friends of mine—That this House, recognising that the Government of Monsieur Tshombe has maintained peace, order and civilised standards, calls on Her Majesty's Government to uphold the independence of Katanga.—but I should like to say that 'the future of Katanga, which, in hostile hands, would be a salient in the Federation front, is a vital British interest and a vital interest in the sterling area and the Commonwealth, and that I should feel unhappy at going away for so long a period without a convincing statement that we shall be promptly recalled if there is any threat to the integrity or independence of the Katanga State.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
It is in no way surprising, in view of the state of the world, that hon. Members on both sides of the House should be reluctant that we should adjourn for no less than three months. Moreover, one can well understand back bench hon. Members opposite who have spoken desiring to continue to offer their support and help to the Government during the anxious months that lie ahead. If they 1315 do so in the way that they have been doing it this afternoon, I am sure that the Opposition will welcome this sign of life on the Government benches and that it would, indeed, be an additional reason for our not adjourning.
Hon. Gentlemen from the Government benches who have so far spoken were concerned primarily with the affairs of the Congo. I do not agree with their general attitude. For my part, I rejoice that the United Nations has taken this matter in hand. However great the difficulties may be—I would not deny that there are great difficulties—it is to some extent reassuring and hopeful that the United Nations should find itself in what is a new and, maybe, extremely important venture.
But I agree with the hon. Members that the position in the Congo continues to cause great anxiety. It is not only the position in the Congo. There are other parts of Africa about which we are deeply concerned. There is, for instance, the situation in Rhodesia. I know that we have difficulty in getting any answers from the Government about Southern Rhodesia. Indeed, I sometimes feel that we are getting into the ridiculous situation when we can ask Questions and make speeches about foreign countries, but may not do so about Commonwealth countries; and that is not, I think, very satisfactory. We are concerned about what is happening there.
There is an important conference just beginning about the future constitution and development of Nyasaland. I hope it goes well, though it has begun under rather stormy conditions. We have only today had the announcement of the movement of British troops to Kenya. All of these things certainly are matters of very grave concern. Not only in Africa and not only in this particular field are there sources of anxiety. The incident of the RB47 is still being discussed in the Security Council of the United Nations, and we have not yet come, I suppose, to the end of that story.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is perfectly right to refer, also, to disarmament and nuclear tests. Incidentally, it is really very regrettable that we should have to have this debate sandwiched in before a debate on disarmament, which 1316 I know none of us wishes to delay unduly.
For all these reasons—one can think of many others, such as the rather unsatisfactory position of our export trade and the anxieties which the Government, I know, have about our balance of payments—the least that we can demand from the Government is that they should not hesitate to recall Parliament if the situation requires it and that they will certainly give very careful consideration to any representations which may be made to them from either side of the House during the Recess that we should be recalled.
There are, however, also some matters which must be dealt with before we go into recess. My hon. Friends have mentioned some of these. My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) asked for an assurance that no commitment would be made so far as Southern Rhodesia is concerned which altered the present situation and our responsibilities under the existing legislation. I cordially endorse what my hon. Friend has said.
There is another matter about which I hope we shall hear from the Government before Friday. This is the discussion on the control over American bases in Britain. Obviously, this is not the occasion to go into that in detail. I will only say that this is a matter which has caused a great deal of concern, whatever our views may be on those bases. I think that we generally agree, on both sides, that the Government must be able to control what those bases are used for and that there must be some sort of dual control over their use as we have been assured exists in the case of emergency and the use of nuclear weapons. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that the Government will make a statement on these negotiations before we rise.
Another matter is the extraordinary situation of the Government. I cannot recall an occasion, certainly in recent history, when there has been for so long so much uncertainly about who is to do what job—certainly not since the 1951 General Election, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), forming a new Government on that occasion, took 1317 rather a long time about it. But here we have a Government which is supposed to be in existence, and yet none of the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Government Front Bench know were they will be. We do not even know whether the Home Secretary is to stay there.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
After all, there is the possibility that he may go to the Foreign Office. For all I know, he may even go to another place. Personally, I would prefer the Home Secretary. There is something in what my hon. Friend has said.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
But my right hon. Friend did not see the right hen. Gentleman before the war, when he served as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I will not go into this odious comparison too far, but I must press the Government on this matter.
First, can we be assured that the long-awaited announcement about the Government changes will be made before we rise and may I also have an assurance that in discussions through the usual channels arrangements will be made for a debate should the unusual step be taken of appointing a Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that when this was last done, in 1938, there was a debate and the House divided on the subject. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to give us that assurance, because I am bound to say that without it I should find it very difficult to ask my hon. Friends to refrain from dividing on the Motion.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
It might be convenient if I answer immediately some of the anxieties which have been expressed. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition went over a number of subjects and I might perhaps save time by dealing at once with the last point he raised, namely, what he described as the situation of the Government.
1318 It has been known for some time that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to resign his office, and I am sure that we were all much gratified with the tribute paid to him by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) at Question Time today. It follows simply from that decision—a personal one which I and many of us very much regret—that there should be certain changes, because if somebody leaves then somebody else must take his place. It is as simple at that.
The Prime Minister, therefore, has to make up his mind as to who should go there and the consequent changes which may or may not take place. It has been asked why these changes should have been delayed. That also stems from the Chancellor's decision that he ought to finish the duties allocated to him. The Finance Bill had to pass through its latter stages, and he also had duties to finish in Paris, which he recently visited. Naturally, therefore, there was delay, pending his retirement, before his successor could be appointed.
The situation is much simpler than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition makes out. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to the Government that there should be such anxiety and interest as to who is to succeed to this important office. Indeed, there is such a wealth of material—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—that it is very difficult for the Prime Minister to choose between the various contending aspirants. However, the right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that his great anxiety is rapidly coming to an end and that the canard on which he has been subsisting for his meagre diet is about to be shot.
I can now say that the announcement about the Government changes will be made tomorrow by the Prime Minister. What is more important—the right hon. Gentleman wanted to know whether there will be opportunity for debate. The answer is, yes. There have already been some preliminary soundings and it would be our idea that there should be a discussion, if desired, on Thursday, if the contingency to which the right hon. Gentleman referred came about. There will, therefore, be an opportunity on Thursday when, I hope, the Government will be able to stand up and justify their position and when the Opposition will be able to debate these matters. I hope 1319 that that is all fair and above board. There will be a statement and Members will be able to discuss it.
As for the right hon. Gentleman's attempts to find out who is to move and who is not to move, some of us have been under some pressure from certain of the brighter journalistic circles for some time. Our characters have been dissected for some weeks past; our jealousies of each other have been patently set out in all the public sheets. We have withstood this terrible ordeal with some success, especially those of us who are to remain in the same positions. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman cannot draw me any further about these mysteries than he has already done, except that I can satisfy him on the fundamental point which he made.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of a statement about United States bases. I shall discuss that immediately with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I cannot go further than that at the moment, because, of course, a satisfactory statement depends on further progress being made with the consultations. It is, however, a serious point and it will be discussed.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned certain other difficulties, in which he followed the line of debate—problems of Africa raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), the problem raised by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), those raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) and others including my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison).
The short answer to all of these points is that it is usual, when we have a debate like this, that an airing of outstanding difficulties is undertaken by conscientious Members, but the situation really depends upon the clear answer by the Government that, if necessary, Standing Order No. 112 will be invoked. That Order reads:Whenever the House stands adjourned and it is represented to Mr. Speaker by Her Majesty's Ministers that the public interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier time during the adjournment, Mr. Speaker, if he is satisfied that the public interest does so require, may give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice.1320 It is quite right that the Government should have been asked whether we intend to invoke that procedure if necessary. I can give an assurance that that is our intention. The decision, as seen in this Standing Order, depends upon the approach and the decision made by Her Majesty's Ministers in approaching Mr. Speaker. Of course we would pay attention as I have said in answering debates of this kind in previous years, to any representations which we regarded as weighty, and also take into account any questions raised by my hon. Friends or by Members opposite or by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
I hope, therefore, that the House will see that we are not trying to be unconstitutional. My predecessors in office as Leader of the House, and I, have always said that it is reasonable for the House to have a break. Those who have sat through our July debates realise always at this time of year—the "dog days"—that it is important to have a bit of a break from time to time. It is important for a Member to meet his own constituents. I hope that the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth will enjoy him and that he will enjoy them, too.
It is important for some of us to have a little holiday and to refresh ourselves in order to tackle the problems which lie before us. Throughout all this time the Executive will remain in action. There will be no going back, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell said, on British lives, British interests or British property in Central Africa, or in any of the weighty and important matters brought before us today. I can give an assurance that the Government, fortified as they will be after the statement tomorrow, will fully be able to meet the desires of the House, and, what is more important, to serve the interests of the country.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, will he, as Leader of the House, during the Recess, give all possible support to back benchers on both sides in their own efforts to fulfil their responsibilities as Members of Parliament? Could he also give an assurance that when Members make representations by correspondence to Ministers, those representations will be dealt with personally by Ministers and not by civil servants?
§ Mr. Butler
I am glad to give an assurance about ensuring that Members will be able to exercise their responsibilities. I can certainly give an assurance on behalf of my colleagues—and I will see that it is widely known—that Members can continue to perform, in their relations with the Executive, all their responsibilities properly during the Recess.
The hon. Member raised the question of correspondence. I will make a particular note of that, and see that it is also widely known that correspondence should he treated as personal—I prefer that word to "confidential", because some of the contents may have to be used in relation to the points raised. This will be treated, as it should be, as personal correspondence from a responsible Member.
§ Mr. Fell
Everybody enjoyed my right hon. Friend's charming and witty speech immensely and none of us minded being referred to as airing cupboards. However, I ask him whether he would not at least consider this alternative assurance to the one which I asked for: would he give a wider assurance that if the situation in the Congo and Katanga—I emphasise "and Katanga "—should deteriorate in any great measure he will recall Parliament?
§ Mr. Butler
All I can say is that in previous years when there has been a question on the international scene which has involved all the magnitude that this situation in Africa might well involve, it has been the practice for Parliament to be recalled, because Parliament is the aide, and rightly so, of the Executive, and representatives of the people should certainly not be left out of the considerations if any issues of great magnitude arise.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
While we are grateful to the Leader of the House for what are, in fact, routine promises, that if anything goes wrong he will listen to representations and recall the House, we cannot leave the matter there.
To begin with, when the right hon. Gentleman says that the Executive will carry on as usual, many of us regard that as a threat rather than a promise. We have had a feeling, which apparently 1322 is widely shared by hon. Members opposite, that of late Government foreign policy has been compounded of equal parts of gimmicks and soft soap. We do not have much confidence about leaving foreign policy in their hands.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). My point of view about the action of the United Nations is completely different from his, but I agree that it is an extremely important departure. I view it as a highly necessary job. It is certainly an extremely important departure for the Government, who did not take the view at the time of Suez that it was proper for the United Nations to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, which is what the United Nations is now doing.
Before we adjourn, we should be told by the Foreign Secretary, if he is still with us, what directions have been given to the United Nations force. What are its terms of reference? Whatever view is taken, we would all like to know how far that force can go. How much discretion has been given to the Secretary General? What are its resources? Are we supplying the United Nations with the police and technical forces which may be necessary? I hope that we can have a statement about those matters before the House rises for the Summer Recess.
It is all very well for the Leader of the House to say that some time tomorrow we will get a statement on the appointment of the new Foreign Secretary and other Government appointments, but that is cutting the matter extremely fine. This is something of not only great general importance, but some constitutional importance. I ask the Government to bear in mind that one of the developments in our work which has been most noticable over recent years has been the growing importance of Question Time in the House. Question Time is a purely British institution and I think that no other Parliamentary tradition has anything of the kind.
Its importance rests on the fact that senior Ministers come to the House and are personally available to answer Questions. If the Prime Minister goes away, though he frequently leaves a most distinguished and experienced deputy here, those of us who put down Questions to 1323 the Prime Minister receive a note to say that he will not be present at Question Time and to ask whether we would like to defer our Questions. It is never assumed that even his most distinguished deputy can take the place of the Minister responsible.
§ Mr. Grimond
I may be going wide of the Motion, but this is an unusual position.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said, we are not usually left in this confusion, with the Government leaking things to the Press about what may or may not happen after so long a delay. In particular, we are not usually left in this position within two days of rising for three months. Nor are we usually left in this position when our foreign policy has been completely in the doldrums ever since the Summit meeting and without knowing who is to be appointed as Foreign Secretary because the Conservative Party is either embarrassed by the mass of riches on the benches opposite, or because it cannot find any one at all there. I crave your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to say be a few words about this matter because of its constitutional importance.
I think that it will be agreed that nowadays the interest of the country and the interest of back bench Members and of the Press is largely centred on Question Time. If we are to weaken that, then we are doing something serious. If it is said that Ministers are extremely busy and must think—and no one is more in favour of Ministers thinking than I am—that may all be true, but, nevertheless, in the light of modern trends, this is a dangerous precedent. If we are to be left at the end of the Session with the possibility a day or two before rising that senior Ministers of the Government are to be appointed in another place and that we have exactly 24 hours to consider the matter, we should be able to make our views known.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I wish only briefly to touch on one subject, and if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House wants to interrupt me I will gladly give way to permit him to answer my question.
1324 My right hon. Friend has said that tomorrow we are to have a statement about what changes there are to be in the membership of the Government. I would like an assurance from him that that will be done simply and solely because, fairly soon afterwards, we shall be going into recess, and that we will not establish a precedent by which a Cabinet change has to be announced in the House of Commons before it can be approved.
It would be a most deplorable state of affairs if we should establish a precedent whereby no Cabinet change could take place unless it was announced in the House of Commons. However remote may be his chance of becoming the Prime Minister, I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will agree that any Prime Minister must be given the right to choose the team which he wants around him. It is for us to judge after that whether those men face up to their responsibilities. As to where they sit, so long as they are the right men, I do not care.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
I take no comfort from the speech of the Leader of the House and I rise to oppose the Motion. In doing so, perhaps I should congratulate the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) and the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams), who spoke so courageously, although I disagreed almost entirely with the substance of what they said.
We are concerned today with whether Parliament should be dismissed for three whole months and whether this House of Commons should join those Legislatures all over Western Europe which have been sterilised by autocratic Executives and deprived of the right of expressing their democratic views.
In this matter, one has to look at the whole scene to see the extraordinary contrast between the inertia of the Parliamentary democracies, now going on holiday, and the agitation in the non and undemocratic countries. During August, the United Nations will continue to sit and discuss most important issues, but, in addition, the trial of the U2 pilot will take place in Moscow, with all the sinister consequences which may well flow from it.
1325 Although the date of the opening of the trial, 12th August, may clash with a major event at home and although, in the ordinary course of events, it would not distract us from our preoccupation, the fact is that all the time the Western democracies will be on holiday the Soviet Union will be occupying itself with those major matters which have caused so much anxiety to the West during the last few months.
In the past, I have watched with admiration the sublime attitude struck by the Prime Minister and I must say that inn elevating sublimity to a principle he has introduced a reassuring element into our political life. None the less, there are times when that sort of detachment, a detachment which can send a Legislature on holiday for three months, causes a great deal of anxiety for all those concerned with the normal democratic processes.
The Leader of the House said that everyone could be perfectly reassured because in the absence of Parliament a strong Executive would be in the saddle and would be able to invoke Standing Orders to reconvene the Legislature. The major reason why I am opposing the Motion is not that there does not exist the machinery for the Executive to recall the Legislature, but that during the coming months the Legislature will be so weakened that it will have no means of recalling the Executive, or calling the Executive to account, should that be necessary, as seems highly likely.
In the past, the Prime Minister has shown how he is able to convert every failure into the appearance of success. That stems from the new grand manner which springs in turn from a nostalgia for the nineteenth century. However, the nineteenth century could tolerate a House of Commons which went on holiday for three months because the rate of activity then was so incomparably slower than the rate of activity today. In a world where aircraft travel at 600 miles per hour, and Where electronic trawlers can tell what is going on 1,000 miles away, surely the methods of the nineteenth century are no longer apt for our present needs.
When I consider the projected, or the rumoured, appointments to be made by the Prime Minister, I cannot help feeling 1326 that he has been reading too much Trollope recently. Indeed, he assumes the manner of the Duke of Omnium to the House of Commons. It is an attitude which assumes that he is capable himself of regulating great public affairs, in the manner very much of General de Gaulle, and I oppose the Motion because I do not want to see Parliament reduced to the incapacity which, in the last few years, has been forced upon some Parliaments of the West.
Recently, a silent revolution has been going on in the country. There has been a gradual transfer of constitutional power de facto from the Commons to another place. If this process continues, if the Executive accumulates so much power as to be able to do what it now intends to do, to send Parliament on a three months' vacation during which the salutary institution of Question Time, to which the Leader of the Liberal Party referred, will be in abeyance, today will be a bad day for democracy.
Like everyone else, I am very much in favour of holidays. Unlike the hon. Member for Yarmouth, it is neither my hope nor my intention to spend three months in my constituency, but I believe that it is possible for the Executive to seduce Parliament by imposing on it an unwelcome, and, sometimes, indeed, a welcome inertia. There is always a grave danger that the Executive, by liberating the Legislature from its responsibilities, will induce in the Legislature a willingness to acquiesce in high-handed action by the Executive, something which Should not be tolerated. I hope that today we will have the strength of will to resist that temptation.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I agree with almost everything that has been said, including the famous paralysis speech made by the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), but I should like to raise another matter of equal importance on which I feel we should have an answer before the House accepts the Motion. This question arises from the decision last April to cancel the Blue Streak intercontinental ballistic missile.
As a corollary to that decision, the Government's space research programme was held in abeyance. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence at the time said that the Government were 1327 seeking expert advice on the matter through the Royal Society, and that a decision would be made as soon as possible. The importance of this decision being announced before the House adjourns is that the scientific teams assembled for this kind of work while Blue Streak was still in existence are now being offered attractive jobs in other parts of the world.
Many of them will have to review their positions before the House reassembles at the end of October. If the decision happens to be "No", and the Government decide not to go ahead with the Blue Streak programme, it will be impossible to regather these teams, or for them ever to take part in this type of work again. In other words, exploration in this specific sphere will have passed beyond the competence of this country, and we shall never be able to take part in it in the same way in future as we have in the past.
This decision must be made very soon. The reason why I suggest that it is of such profound importance is founded on a number of points, which I shall itemise briefly.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am not sure how far this is connected with the Motion before the House. The decision can be taken whether or not the House is sitting.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I am obliged, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The relevance of the decision to the Motion before the House is that I want to know what the decision is before I decide whether to support the Motion. I was merely seeking to telescope my arguments and thus facilitate progress.
The importance of the decision is based on three points. First, the defence aspect. Space research is relevant to the future security of this country. In the past political influence and military power rested on control on land and on the seas. It is now likely that such influence will rest on the patrolling of outer space. That is the vital importance of this decision which should be made before the House adjourns.
My case rests not so much on that, but on the fact that I want an answer to a number of other questions. First, the telecommunications aspect of this proposition—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think that we can go into the details of this matter in this debate. I notice that the hon. Member has the Adjournment debate on Friday. That will give him a further opportunity to raise these matters.
§ Mr. Donnelly
The last thing that I want to do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is to go into the technical aspects of this question. If I did, there would not be time for any other discussion today. I would have to keep the House here all day.
How far have the Government gone in examining the telecommunications aspect? Is it true that this will completely revolutionise the whole of the international telephone system?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry, but I do not think that that is a detail we can debate on this Motion.
§ Mr. Donnelly
The last thing in the world that I wish to do is to dispute your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I agree with it entirely, but I am seeking an answer to these questions before the right hon. Gentleman asks us to accept the Motion.
The second question is: how far have the Government's researches gone in connection with the future of weather forecasting? Thirdly, what estimates have been made of the costs involved? What consideration have the Government given to it? The information that I have would make it easy for the Government to come to a decision today. That is why I am seeking to elicit an answer from the Home Secretary.
As I understand it, the question of cost is holding up the Government's decision. On the other hand, this is one of the important—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We cannot go into all this now. I hope that the hon. Member will be more successful with his Adjournment debate on Friday.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I was just drawing to a close, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
The decision which the Government have so far failed to make, and which I am suggesting they should announce before asking us to agree to the Motion, is one of the most important decisions in the history of British technology. It is as important as any of the decisions 1329 which had to be taken in previous great voyages of exploration, and similar decisions faced the Government of the day in both Britain and Portugal 400 years ago, when they were asked to underwrite the voyages of Drake and Columbus. It is interesting to reflect on what would have been the course of history if there had been a Macmillan Government in office in either of those countries at that time.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance—
§ Mr. Donnelly
I am asking the right hon. Gentleman whether, before we agree to the Motion, he will give the House an assurance that this decision will be taken in sufficient time to insure that we retain the technologists concerned. Secondly, whether he will give an interim assurance, if not a final decision, to reassure the personnel involved so that they will realise that there is a future for them in their jobs in this country.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I would make an appeal to the House. The speech of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), full as it is of important questions, illustrates how our procedure ought or ought not to work. In answering a debate purely on a point of procedure I am not entitled to give the hon. Member highly technical answers, and if I do not do so I hope that he will not accuse me of discourtesy. The advantage which his speech gives me is that I can point out that a debate on this matter is already set down for Friday. I have already seen my right hon. Friend the Minister who is chiefly responsible. I did so in case this matter came up before Friday's debate, because I like to prepare my mind beforehand. My right hon. Friend and I agreed between us that the answers must be given on Friday. I cannot guarantee that every answer will be given, because I must reserve the position of my right hon. Fiend, but I can say that the points raised by the hon. Member will be conveyed by me to my right hon. Friend immediately after the debate.
Secondly, although there is to be a debate on Friday on the subject raised 1330 by the hon. Member for Pembroke, that is not the case with other subjects. In that connection, however, the debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill gives hon. Members a chance to raise issues of precisely this sort. A short debate on disarmament has been arranged, but several hon. Members have given notice to the Ministers concerned that they wish to raise certain subjects afterwards, and it is easier to keep in order by raising those subjects in the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill than by keeping on the very edge of order in this debate—which the hon. Member for Pembroke ingeniously managed to do. I would appeal to the House that we should now get on to the debate on disarmament, so that, after having disposed of Private Business, we can get on to subjects which are to be raised by individual Members.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) raised a question of constitutional propriety. He said he hoped that it would not be taken as a precedent that changes in the Government had necessarily to be announced when Parliament was sitting. It is clearly the prerogative of the head of the Government to announce changes whenever he likes. What happened on this occasion was that the resignation or retirement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer coincided with the period when Parliament was approaching the Recess. We thought, therefore, that it was only natural courtesy that an announcement should be made while Parliament was still sitting. In case there has been any misunderstanding I should like to make it clear that the announcement will be made from No. 10, Downing Street in the ordinary way, which is the constitutional way of proceeding.
I should like to take the precaution of saying that we have been in touch with the Opposition, through the usual channels, and have arranged for a debate to take place so that this matter may be considered by Parliament if Parliament, on hearing the announcement, still thinks it necessary to have such a debate.
I cannot usefully add much more to the discussion, and I sincerely hope that those hon. and right hon. Members who are so keen to discuss disarmament may now be permitted to do so.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
If this debate has been prolonged, considerable blame rests upon the Home Secretary. Some of us have listened with great attention to the debate and to his reply, which I thought humorous and charming but entirely unworthy of the seriousness of the occasion. We have come here profoundly doubting whether we could disband for three months and we had from the right hon. Gentleman a characteristic light speech showing that he was taking this as a little Parliamentary excursion. He played a game with the rest of us. This was not the mood in which hon. Members on either side of the House attended today.
If some of us spoke afterwards, it was to impress upon him that the reply we got from him was unworthy of the speeches made by hon. Members on either side of the House. This is one of the few occasions When back benchers have the right to decide whether or not they should vote for the Motion. Whether or not we do so should depend upon the reply we get. But what reply did we have from the right hon. Gentleman to the vital question of Katanga, which hon. Members opposite raised? Although I profoundly disagree with hon. Members opposite about what the Government should do, I entirely agree about the importance of the issue.
We are being asked to adjourn without any notion whether or not the Government side with hon. Members opposite below the Gangway. The most urgent pressure has been put upon the Government by hon. Members opposite to decide, in a way which I think would be extremely dangerous, in the matter of the Katanga Government. Hon. Members opposite have urged the Government to plunge in and intervene in the matter. I respect the seriousness of hon. Members opposite in putting forward the proposal that the Government should intervene on behalf of the so-called Katanga Government, but the main anxiety of hon. Members on this side of the House is to get an express assurance that there will be no kind of intervention on the part of our Government. We want to be sure that we shall not plunge in and so disrupt the United Nations' effort.
§ Mr. Crossman
With respect, we are debating the question whether or not we should vote for the Motion for the Adjournment. We are trying to make up our minds, and for that purpose we want an adequate reply from the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Crossman
We are debating the Motion and trying to make up our minds, in terms of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, whether we should force a Division or not. We have listened to two quite inadequate replies from him, and I am giving the reason why I regard them as inadequate. The reason is that there is now a deep division in this House between those hon. Members below the Gangway opposite who are urging the Government to intervene in some way on behalf of the Katanga Government and other hon. Members. I respect the sincerity with which those hon. Members put forward their proposal, but I want to put my point of view and I want an assurance, which I have not yet got.
I remember something which happened in the summer of 1956. I remember that we went into the Summer Recess with the Suez crisis just beginning and when we had a Government policy that was full of dubiety and ambivalence; the Government could not make up their mind. While the House was in recess pressure was brought upon the Government, largely at the Conservative Party Conference, which tipped us on to the edge of a world war and into the Suez fiasco. These decisive decisions on Suez, and the drift from what was the situation in July into the Suez fiasco, occurred while the House was in recess—
§ Mr. Fell
On a point of order. While Mr. Speaker was in the Chair the question of Suez was raised by an hon. Member opposite by way of an intervention in a speech that I was trying to make. The hon. Member was immediately ruled out of order. It seems to me that 1333 the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), in his clever excursion, is raising a very similar point, and it would therefore seem to be completely oat of order.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
On this Motion we cannot discuss the details of the Suez operation. I understand that the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) is putting forward the proposition that as that occurred during a long recess it was undesirable to have a long recess now.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, What I would say to, the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) is that I, as a fellow back bencher, will seek to assist him in doing his duty if he will assist me in claiming the right of back benchers to demand a debate on this Motion.
I will now come back to the unpleasant topic of why we should not adjourn now. I say that we should not do so because w; remember what happened in a similar African crisis three years ago. During the Recess, partly as a result of party pressure from hon. Members who have been putting on pressure today, a disastrous decision was taken by a Tory Government. By the time that the House was brought back it was too late to prevent the disaster.
We must now ask ourselves seriously whether we can afford to allow this Government to face the Congo crisis and al; crisis in Central Africa—because those is a serious situation in Southern Rhodesia, as has been pointed out—while the House is in recess. Great pressures will be brought to bear upon the Government, both from Central Africa and from hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, to take another fateful decision, although we have had no kind of assurance from the right lion. Gentleman that he will promise not to listen to anything that is said from below the Gangway opposite but will stand by the United Nations and ensure that this vacuum in the Congo is filled, so giving the United Nations a chance to prevent a world war.
If we are thinking of parallels, I would point out that there is a parallel with the 1914–18 war where we had a situation—[An HON. MEMBER: "We 1334 are anxious that the United Nations should not make war."] That is a most illuminating intervention, indicating how important it is for the Government to make up their mind between accepting the advice of their own back benchers or following the course of sanity. There is a great gulf between the Government teetering on the edge of insanity, on the one hand, and taking wise advice on this issue on the other.
I wish to return to one other point before the right hon. Gentleman makes a third and what, I hope, will at least be a respectable and respectful reply to the House. We in the City of Coventry have to face a crisis in the motor car industry. There has been a sensational drop in the exports of British motor cars so that for the first time exports were actually less than twelve months ago. This has resulted partly from direct Government action and the deliberate creation of a lack of confidence. Of course, there are other factors—for instance, the state of the market in North America—but the crisis in the industry has been induced by the decision of the present Chancellor to create this crisis of confidence.
We wish to know what is to happen over the next three months if figures show that during that time conditions are as bad as they are now. What will be done by the Government? Will action be taken? It is not only the motor car industry which is affected but our whole economy because of the important effect which that industry has upon the economy. The whole prosperity of our economy depends upon keeping the motor car industry going, and we have had no kind of answer from the Government. We do not even know who will be the next Chancellor, except that we have the threat that the Foreign Secretary may be moved there. We shall have a Chancellor appointed and we shall have no knowledge of his intentions with regard to the industry.
Perhaps the Leader of the House will once again try to give us some indication that he takes this question seriously. If he does not, it may be that we shall have to vote after all in order to discover the opinion of the House.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I am sorry to intervene and to continue this debate but, as has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), to a large extent the Leader of the House has brought it upon himself. First, the right hon. Member gave a rather inadequate reply to what had been already said. Not only was it an inadequate reply, but it seemed to conflict with some of the things said yesterday by his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I suggest that the reason for the opposition to the Motion from hon. Members opposite sitting below the Gangway arises from the reply of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs yesterday afternoon. We all welcome the granting of independence to the Congo, but it is quite clear that there is a feeling among hon. Members opposite that Congo independence should harmonise with the detachment of Katanga from the Congo Republic.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
Order. We cannot go into that matter on the Question before the House.
§ Mr. Rankin
I have no intention of going deeply into the matter, but I felt that I should be allowed to express my own view and, I think, that of many hon. Members on this side of the House—and some on the opposite side—about why this action has been taken by hon. Members opposite below the Gangway.
That attitude definitely conflicts with what we were assured yesterday afternoon was the policy of the Government. I suggest that if the Leader of the House had made clear that he dissociated himself completely from the views expressed by the three hon. Members opposite who spoke, he would not have caused the discontent and worry which has been created among hon. Members on this side of the House by the fact that we are to go away for three long months and leave this situation in the hands of a Government obviously quite undecided as to how to deal with it.
I suggest that that demands a further intervention from the Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said a short while ago that hon. Members on both sides could raise these matters later. 1336 Is he trying to slip away from everything—
§ Mr. R. A. Butler rose—
§ Mr. Rankin
Just let me finish, I will sit down in a moment.
If the Leader of the House will assure us that it is in order to raise these matters regarding the Congo and the bases and a whole lot of other things which I wish to refer to but which I will not deal with now—if we can do that later on tonight with the assurance of the Chair and the support of the Government, I shall give way immediately to hear the right hon. Gentleman's reply, although I have not finished my speech.
§ Mr. Butler
I am not going to make a speech. I wish simply to interrupt the hon. Gentleman to say that it has been for long constitutionally right for Private Members to raise matters on the Appropriation Bill, but on this occasion, after the possible debate we may have on disarmament and the private Business which has to intervene for a short time, several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), have given notice of matters which they wish to raise. Those matters will be in order and will be answered by the responsible Minister.
I am simply the Leader of the House and am not responsible for every aspect and every Department of Government. Under the rules of order, my chances to reply to the various points—this is the answer to the perfectly proper speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—are not as great as those of responsible Ministers. I am somewhat inhibited in my reply and, therefore, there are limits to the value of a debate like this, although I regard it as a serious debate.
§ Mr. Rankin
May I assume from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that if I now give notice that later today, or early tomorrow morning, I shall seek to direct the attention of the Government to the Motion on the Order Paper dealing with America's responsibility for world tension, the appropriate Minister will be in his place—the Foreign Secretary, the old or the new, I know not which—in order to deal with this?
§ [That this House would welcome an announcement from the Prime Minister that, following his letter to Mr. Krushchev, he proposes to write a letter to President Eisenhower informing him that a considerable number of people in Great Britain are exceedingly doubtful, since the incident of the U.2, whether the flights of United States aircraft over or near Russian territory are justified; that they believe that United States policy has also contributed to the increase in world tension; and would welcome some assurance that the United States of America is prepared to adopt a foreign policy more likely to lead to understanding with Russia, to bring China into the United Nations and end the fear that the nuclear arms race may lead to a third world war which could destroy civilisation.]
§ May I say how grateful I am personally that a terrible threat has been removed from Scotland, because if rumour be true, it has been suggested that the noble Gentleman who will shortly adorn the Government Front 13ench as Foreign Secretary might have been Secretary of State for Scotland. We have escaped that—
§ Mr. Rankin
May I put the further point. With the wealth of talent which we were told is so great on the benches opposite. why should we be left with the present calamity? It may be that later on I shall develop this point.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
We have had about 14 speeches in which very important matters have been raised and reasons given why the House should not adjourn for a period of three long months. Hon. Members have raised important matters of an international character, and I wish to raise a question which will affect hundreds of thousands of people in this country. I wish to ask the Leader of the House whether he can give an assurance that during the long 1338 period of recess, if there be a need to recall the House under the Standing Order—I think it is No. 112, which the right hon. Gentleman said he would invoke if international conditions warranted—we can make use of it to recall Parliament on matters of national importance?
The question I want to draw to the attention of the Leader of the House is this. We are speaking this afternoon about going off for a long recess. Some hon. Gentlemen are talking about going to their country houses or to their seaside houses. Most of us are fortunate in that we have places to go to. Because of the action of this Government three years ago, a Measure was introduced in the House, which the Opposition opposed, which means that today and during the next few weeks many thousands of honest working class people will find themselves without a roof over their heads. Under the Rent Act, 1957,—this is not a small matter—
§ Mr. Lewis
No, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I am explaining why I think the House should not adjourn for three months. I am explaining to the House, to the Leader of the House, and to you, Sir, that something is going to happen. It is not something which may happen. It is something which will happen, whereby people will be given notice to quit their houses unless they agree to a doubling or a trebling of their rents. This is on top of the fact that many of these people had their rents doubled and trebled—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I understand that the hon. Member is referring to an Act of Parliament passed by the House. We cannot discuss that on this procedure Motion.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am referring to a Motion on the Order Paper saying that this House should adjourn for three months. I am referring to that Motion and saying that I am opposing it. I am explaining to you. Sir, and to the House why I think I should oppose the Motion, why I think my hon. Friends should oppose the Motion, and why I think that even the members of the Government should oppose the Motion.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Would it not have been possible for the hon. Member to have raised this very important point on many occasions over the last few weeks if he had been present to do so?
§ Mr. Lewis
That is an interjection and interruption which—I say this with respect—is pretty low coming from the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), because my attendance and my record in the House is far better than most. It is certainly far better than that of many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are sitting opposite—or not sitting there. It ill becomes hon. Gentlemen now present, who are usually absent for weeks on end, to talk about my record of attendance in the House.
I will come back now to the subject which I was raising. This is a question which is arising now. It is not a question that arose three or four months ago. It will arise whilst the House is in recess. I was explaining that we, as Members of Parliament, will have no opportunity of raising in the House the fact that many of our constituents will be without a house or without accommodation.
There are several reasons why this ought to be raised now. There are several reasons why the Leader of the House ought to give us an assurance that, if this becomes a very important question, as I think it will, particularly in the London area and the large cities, he will agree that hon. Members on both sides should have the opportunity of approaching him and the Government to ask for the recall of Parliament.
The reason why I say that is this. Over the past few weeks there have been many inspired leaks as to who will or will not fill various Government offices. We are told that we shall be informed officially tomorrow. We shall await the information with interest. We have been told that one of the right hon. Gentlemen who might fill the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft).
§ Mr. Lewis
No. I have tried to explain to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that if 1340 we agree to the Motion and the House is adjourned I shall not have the opportunity next week of raising my complaint and opposing such a right hon. Gentleman occupying that position, because I know that he was the right hon. Gentleman who imposed the 7 per cent. Bank Rate in this country, which—
§ Mr. Lewis
I have tried to explain to the House—I think that this is in order—that we should not adjourn. am trying to explain that the Motion should be opposed. I am trying to explain to the House that one of the reasons is that, if we adjourn now for three months, we shall have—not in all probability, but definitely—a new Chancellor of the Exchequer. I take for that not the paper rumours, but the Leader of the House, who said that we shall have the announcement tomorrow of a new Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Lewis
I agree that we cannot discuss it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. [Laughter.] But hon. Gentlemen who are laughing were not here when the Leader of the House mentioned this. I think, that I am entitled, as well as the right hon. Gentleman, to mention the subjects and matters which he himself mentioned and which you, with respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, allowed. If the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, as he most certainly did, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had for some some long time been wanting to relinquish office and tomorrow there would be an announcement of who would fill the office, I am entitled to pass comment on it.
My comment is this. I know that my borough council has been prevented from producing and building houses because of the excessive Bank Rate which the Government have from time to time imposed. Can we have an assurance from the Leader of the House that, if we agree to the Motion, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer will not increase the Bank Rate?
§ Mr. Lewis
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that I am putting to you another reason why I feel that we should oppose the Motion—I am speaking on the Motion—that the House should adjourn for three months. I am putting to you a reason why we, should not agree to the Motion standing in the Prime Minister's name. I am entitled, if hon. Gentlemen opposite would just be quiet for a moment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] I am not afraid of speaking up. It is a pity the some hon. Gentlemen opposite do not do likewise. I am giving various raisons why I think the House should not adjourn.
We have heard hon. Gentlemen talking about the situation in Southern Rhodesia, the question with regard to the bases, the question with regard to the Congo, and various other matters. If they have been allowed, as they have, to give to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to ''the House reasons why in their view those are important issues which should prevent us agreeing to the Motion, I claim the right to give you and the House reasons—and a particular reason—why we should oppose the Motion.
I have mentioned a few reasons. I come back to what I originally attempted to explain, namely, that I have a fear the t, if and when we agree to the Motion anti adjourn, we shall have a position whereby the Government, who according to the Leader of the House will bring in a new Chancellor of the Exchequer, may well impose a restriction upon building authorities and thus again deprive my constituents of an opportunity of being rehoused.
I will conclude by asking—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Gentlemen want me to go on, I will go on. I can explain several reasons why I think the House should not adjourn. I can do it even by explaining to the House that I think that there are many hon. 1342 Members opposite who ought to fill the Foreign Secretary's job. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Do hon. Members want me to continue with that? I hear the cheers I am receiving. Certainly, they could not be any worse than the one in another place who is proposed. But, if I were to develop that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you would say that I was out of order. Of course, I should be out of order, notwithstanding the fact that about fourteen speakers this afternoon have all mentioned it, including the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition.
In conclusion, I ask the Leader of the House to give an assurance. If hon. Members, particularly from London and the overcrowded cities of the country, find that their constituents are being given notice to quit and are being asked to pay exhorbitant rents which they cannot really afford, and if there is a large enough demand from hon. Members for a recall of Parliament to discuss that issue, will he give it at least as favourable consideration as he promised to his hon. Friends in the matters they mentioned this afternoon?
I honestly and sincerely believe that there is a very serious problem confronting my constituents and the constituents of many hon. Members. I do not feel happy about going away for three months knowing that it will not be possible to raise these questions in Parliament unless the Leader of the House gives the assurance for which I have asked.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I propose, with your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to address myself to the Motion rather more narrowly than have some hon. Members who preceded me. I shall not get involved in arguments with the ex-Suez group, now, I suppose, to be called the "Congo Group". I shall not get involved in arguments about Ministerial reconstruction, because any rearrangement of derelict machinery fit only for the scrap heap is of no particular interest to me. I wish the Leader of the House to clear up a mystery surrounding this Motion.
For the first time yesterday afternoon, at about half-past three, hon. Members were informed by the Patronage Secretary that the Motion was to be tabled 1343 and was to be discussed today. In the circumstances, since that was the first opportunity the House had of learning the Government's intentions in the matter, I wonder how it came about that in the Daily Telegraph of Monday morning, 25th July, a commentator known as Peterborough, whom I do not know personally, actually announced that the Motion next day at the beginning of Business would be to fix the date of the Summer Recess.
This sort of thing has happened before. This particular matter was a domestic one affecting the House of Commons. How does it come about that Her Majesty's Government release to a particular journalist information of this kind which is denied to hon. Members? The particular journalist concerned must have known on the Sunday what the Patronage Secretary proposed to do, but no one in the House of Commons knew. It has happened before, and this is why I raise it now. It happened a few weeks ago that the Minister of Housing and Local Government was due to answer Questions on housing policy and the green belt and, on the very morning of the day on which he was due to answer Questions in the House, he gave an exclusive interview to the Daily Mail dealing with the very points he was supposed to explain to the House a little later.
I ask the Leader of the House to accept the proposition that it is a most undesirable practice on the part of Her Majesty's Government to release to favoured people outside information to which the House is entitled in the first instance. In my submission, it is not treating the House and the rights and privileges of the House with the courtesy and regard to which they are entitled It has happened twice in a very short time, and I urge the Leader of the House, who, I hope, has as much regard for our dignity as anyone, to accept that this kind of conduct really ought not to be tolerated.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I cannot accept the point put to me by the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). As far as I know, this was not a deliberate conveyance of information to the journal in question. I agree that it is undesirable that news- 1344 papers should be told before Parliament. I think this probably arose from an interchange on Thursday's business when there was some discussion about whether the Motion would be on one day or another. I think that that is how it arose. It certainly was not conveyed by the Government, and I give the assurance which the hon. Gentleman desires, that Parliament should be told first.
In answering the other points which have ben raised, I will tell the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that we are very anxious, as he is, about the position of exports, and, in particular, we have the interests of the motor industry at heart. To the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), I say that the assurances that the Government would take the international or the national situation seriously cover the national situation in respect of hardship or difficulty just as much as they cover the international situation.
The only reservation that I make is to refer to the exact terms of the Standing Order, which leave the discretion with the Government but leave the representations to hon. Mmbers and to representatives of public opinion. I hope that it will be seen, therefore, that we are perfectly serious about our intention to let Parliament assist the duties of the Government if the situation warrants it or should make it necessary. I hope that that serious assurance will reassure hon. Members who have put points to me.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Question is, "That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 25th October."
As many as are of that opinion say "Aye". To the contrary, "No". I think the "Ayes" have it.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think I am right in saying that I heard more than two voices shout "No" when you put the Question on the Sittings of the House Motion.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 26.1347
|Division No. 148.]||AYES||[5.48 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)||Neave, Airey|
|Aitken, W. T.||Green, Alan||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Allason, James||Gresham Cooke, R.||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Arbuthnot, John||Grimston, Sir Robert||Ormsby Gore, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Balniel, Lord||Hall, John (Wyoombe)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)|
|Barter, John||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Batsford, Brian||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Page, Graham|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hay, John||Peel, John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Percival, Ian|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Bingham, R, M.||Hendry, Forbes||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Pilkington, Capt. Richard|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Bossom, Clive||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pott, Percivall|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hocking, Philip N.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Box, Donald||Holland, Philip||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hollingworth, John||Profumo, Rt. Hon, John|
|Braine, Bernard||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Brooman-White, R.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Ramsden, James|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Bullard, Denys||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Renton, David|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Roots, William|
|Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn)||Iremonger, T. L.||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Jackson, John||Russell, Ronald|
|Cary, Sir Robert||James, David||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Sharples, Richard|
|Chataway, Christopher||Jennings, J. C.||Shaw, M.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Smithers, Peter|
|Cole, Norman||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Cooke, Robert||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Speir, Rupert|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kirk, Peter||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Lambton, Viscount||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cordle, John||Leavey, J. A.||Talbot, John E.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Leburn, Gilmour||Tapsell, Peter|
|Costain, A. P.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Teeling, William|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Lindsay, Martin||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Critchley, Julian||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Cunningham, Knox||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Curran, Charles||Longbottom, Charles||Turton, Rt Hon. R. H.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Longden, Gilbert||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Loveys, Walter H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Vaughan-Morgan. Sir John|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||McLaren, Martin||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Drayson, G. B.||McMaster, Stanley R.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Wall, Patrick|
|Duthie, Sir William||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Eden, John||Maginnis, John E.||Watts, James|
|Elliott, R. W.||Maitland, Sir John||Webster, David|
|Emery, Peter||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Whitelaw, William|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Marshall, Douglas||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Farr, John||Marten, Neil||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Foster, John||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Wise, A. R.|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Gammane, Lady||Mawby, Ray||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Gardner, Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mills, Stratum||Woollam, John|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Worsley, Marcus|
|Goodhart, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Morgan, William|
|Gower, Raymond||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Gibson-Watt and Mr. Noble.|
|Baird John||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Beaney, Alan||Holman, Percy||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Kelley, Richard||Swingler, Stephen|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Warbey, William|
|Edelman, Maurice||Marsh, Richard|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Millan, Bruce||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grimond, J.||Pavitt, Laurence||Mr. A. Lewis and Mr. Wade.|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Rankin, John|
That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 25th October.