asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower) and 164 other hon. Members about the defence and evacuation areas; and whether an early opportunity will be given to debate this Motion?
[ That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that a Departmental Committee should be appointed to consider the position of the Defence and Evacuation Areas and to report what steps are necessary or desirable for the alleviation of present hardships and for the reinstatement of the means of livelihood of the populations of these areas.]
I have considered this Motion. The hardships which have befallen many of the inhabitants of the areas evacuated under the Defence Regulations, serious though I know them to be, are not by any means confined to them. My hon. and gallant Friend will be aware that the Defence (Evacuated Areas) Regulations, 1940, gave a considerable measure of relief from their current liabilities to persons who evacuated from these districts. The reinstatement of the livelihood of these populations will be considered as part of the Government's examination of the problems of reconstruction, and I do not think there is any need for the establishment of a Departmental Committee. I have noted the request for a Debate. The subject would seem to me to be one that might well have been raised on the general Debate on the Address. I cannot hold out any prospect of an early day being made available for the Motion.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that at the beginning of this Session, we, as private Members, agreed to give up our rights of Private Members' time, on the condition that the Government, if there were a widespread desire for a Debate in the House, would give time for that Debate? Surely the fact that 165 Members have signed the Motion indicates a widespread desire?
I quite agree, but one of the principal opportunities for such a Debate would have been the Debate on the Address. I should have thought that this matter might well have been ventilated then.
Will the right hon. Gentleman not consider whether in this new Session the time has not come for the Government to give time for the discussion of specific Motions on the Order Paper to which a substantial number of Members have appended their names?
Surely my right hon. Friend does not rule out the possibility of some time being made available during this Session for discussing this Motion, or any other?
My hon. Friend is quite right. I said "an early day." I did not by any means rule out a discussion. There are many opportunities for raising this matter, and I pointed out one of them. Members will be well advised to take such opportunities. I do not think there is any possibility of an early day being given.