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West Indies

Volume 155: debated on Monday 19 June 1922

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asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is prepared to provide an opportunity for discussing the Report recently issued by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in regard to his recent visit to the West Indies?

No, Sir. I regret that I cannot arrange for special facilities for this discussion. As, however, I announced on Thursday last, we hope to take the Colonial Office Vote on Thursday next.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that on Thursday evening there are many important subjects, such as Iraq and Palestine, which will crowd out any possible discussion on this Report?

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that Thursday will be devoted to Colonial Office questions pure and simple, and not be taken up to a large extent by Irish questions?

No, I cannot give a pledge of that kind. I am rather in the hands of the House. I am speaking at present without definite knowledge to guide me, hut if my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary should be in a position to make his statement on Thursday, it may be that the House would desire a discussion on Ireland, and in that case the Colonial Office Vote might have to be postponed.

Do we understand that, if there is a discussion on Thursday on Ireland, it will not be on the ordinary Colonial Office Vote, because Thursday was asked for, as I think the right hon. Gentleman knows, by the Labour party for the discussion of Africa-n Colonial questions, and we do not want to have its place taken by a discussion on Ireland?

I have no intention of using the Colonial Office Vote, or of attempting to obtain the Colonial Office Vote, after the Irish discussion. I think the Irish discussion would probably take place on an Irish Vote, but if for any reason the salary of my right hon. Friend were put-down, I should not think of closing the Colonial Office Vote after the Irish discussion, and we could put that down for another day.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider in what way the House can express any view on that very valuable Report issued by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies—a very valuable Report indeed?

I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman's congratulations will be gratefully received by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was-arranged that the Under-Secretary should open on Thursday with a general report on Colonial Office affairs, and that the Debate on the general question should take place first, and are we to understand that there is a question now of substituting for that speech by the Colonial Secretary himself on Ireland?

The House has shown a desire to have a statement by my right hon. Friend, at the earliest moment at which he can conveniently make it, upon Ireland, and the Government are attempting to conform to the wishes of the House in that respect. As far as I can see, Thursday is likely to be that day. If the House does not want his statement on Ireland, there is no reason why it should be made, but if it does want his statement on Ireland, then I think he must make it on Thursday, even if that involves a change in the business previously proposed.

Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly remember that the Colonial Office Vote is the only opportunity in the whole course of the year which we have in this House of discussing certain questions of the most urgent importance?

is it, not usual or customary between the two Front Benches that these days of Supply should be allotted for the discussion of what the Opposition wants to have discussed, and as they have asked for this Vote for this special purpose, is it not rather irregular to use it for some other purpose?

I have not yet said we would use this Vote for that purpose. I have said that if the House desires a discussion after hearing the statement of my right hon. Friend, I think that discussion must be taken on Thursday, whether on the salary of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or on some other Vote, some Irish Vote. Of course, under ordinary circumstances Supply days are allocated in response to requests from the two sections of the Opposition, hut I have once before pointed out—and it is a matter which we must keep in mind—that the present distribution of parties in this House does not cause that to work in quite the normal way. We must have regard to very widespread views held outside the two parties who sit on those Benches immediately in front of me.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the desire for the Palestine discussion, which he suggested should take place on Thursday, but which, obviously, cannot take place now on that day?

I do not say it obviously cannot take place now. If the Colonial Office Vote be not taken, or, being taken, it be used as a vehicle for an Irish discussion, we must put the Colonial Office Vote down again. Perhaps my hon. Friend had better wait and see how matters develop between now and Thursday.