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Business Of The House

Volume 351: debated on Sunday 3 September 1939

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4.23 p.m.

I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."

In moving this Motion, it will probably be for the convenience of the House if I say that it is proposed to meet tomorrow at 2.45 of the Clock, and we propose to consider the six Bills presented to-day, and four Measures which have come from another place. The National Registration Bill will be taken first, and it will be followed by the Trading with the Enemy Bill from another place. Any other necessary business will be brought forward.

4.24 p.m.

I should like to ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury on the Motion for Adjournment. There are some of us who would like to ask questions upon certain essential services, and to ask for information. I am thinking more particularly with regard to food production. I would like to know whether there will be an opportunity, and at what time, of having a discussion upon that particular item of national service. I have no doubt at all that there are other matters in which other Members are particularly interested, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the food-producing community of this country are in the dark as to what the Government expect them to do. I have never had any kind of circular to indicate what the Government would like us to do. I understand there are certain things which might not be regarded as essential, but others are. We should at once drop the non-essential things and use the soil for the purpose of producing the more essential commodities. Take potatoes, for example. At the present time there is a restriction upon the acreage of potatoes that you can raise. In fact, you are liable to a fine of £5 an acre if you increase your acreage. I do not suggest that that will remain, but it exists at the present time. We should like to know whether the Government want us to produce more potatoes. Then there is the question of the production of cereals. Certain lands could be used for the production of wheat. There are other lands not very useful for that purpose, which could produce oats.

Then there is the question of the production of pigs and other food commodities. We should like to know what it is that the Government expect us to do. We ought to have instructions. I inquired from the Surrey County Council Agricultural Committee, which is a very able body, on which there are big farmers. They have an excellent staff. I am particularly urgent about this question of information of what is required being given to us. You have to buy seeds, which may not be very easy to get, and delay will increase the difficulties enormously. Then there is the question of fertilisers. We want to know about them. Can the Chief Whip give us any information as to what opportunity will be given to us, not to attack and criticise but to seek information as to what the Government expect us to do, what assistance they will give to us and what assistance they expect us to give to others? For instance, in regard to those of us who have machinery, what do the Government expect us to do to help our neighbours? It is a question of the organisation of production.

Are we to assume that the War will be a short one? Everybody hopes for the best, but I am not at all sure that a short war will be the best for us. That, however, is another matter. If it is to be a long war, then we are confronted with very great and new difficulties in regard to the carriage of food to this country—difficulties with which we were not faced in the last War. Therefore, it is very important that we should not put off the problem of increased and intensified production for one moment longer than we tan avoid. I would ask the Chief Whip whether he can give us any information as to whether we shall have a chance of having full conversation in the House, so that publicity may be given on the advice of the Government upon these subjects, and we may be able to call attention to things in regard to which we are entirely in the dark. It is very important that we should know what is expected of us.

4.28 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I had no notice that he was to raise this question, and it is, therefore, difficult for me to answer. I can say, however, that the Government will be ready to provide opportunities for discussion such as the right hon. Gentleman has outlined. I think I may say that plans are in an advanced stage of preparation and it might well be that discussion will take place on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House when we have passed the necessary legislation.

I must intervene to say that a Motion for Adjournment would not be a suitable occasion for a discussion such as is suggested as we could not refer to matters that would need legislation.

I understand that some legislation will be necessary. I will convey the views of the right hon. Gentleman to the Prime Minister and the Ministers responsible, and I hope that we shall soon be in a position to give a satisfactory reply.

May I ask the Chief Whip to indicate whether there is any likelihood of the House sitting after tomorrow? Can he give us any indication whether it is intended to sit on Tuesday? It may be difficult for him to say that definitely, but if he has it in mind to sit on Tuesday, will he tell us so, in order that we may make our arrangements?

It is almost certain that we shall be sitting on Tuesday, and Wednesday as well. I am discussing, through the usual channels, what hour will be most convenient, whether we should meet as usual at 2.45 p.m. and sit in the afternoon and the evening as at present, or whether it would be more convenient to meet earlier in the day in view of the black-outs. These matters are under discussion, but I hope to be in a position to make a statement shortly about them.

Yes, Sir; we shall meet at 2.45. A number of hon. Members have indicated to me that they are leaving London to-night.

4.33 p.m.

Some of us who are officers in His Majesty's Forces have to take up important appointments to-morrow, and there is one matter which I should like to bring before the notice of the Chief Whip. We have met to-day on the first day of a great and critical war. Can the Chief Whip give the House this assurance, that until such time as this House becomes completely untenable, through enemy action which I, personally, think unlikely, the House of Commons, the people's House, will continue to meet in the Capital, in London, at a time when the morale of the people is so important? Some of us who have to go on war service will attend here when we can but it would be a great encouragement to us if we could be given an assurance that the House will meet in the Capital of the Empire.

Yes, Sir. With complete confidence I can give that assurance so far as it affects His Majesty's Government. The only reason for taking the precautions so far is in case this particular building should become untenable and we were compelled to meet somewhere else. If we could not meet here we must obviously meet somewhere else. I can say that His Majesty's Government are determined that the seat of Government will remain in London as long as it is absolutely possible.

May I ask that if hon. Members are brought here the Government will take the opportunity of using their services in some way?

Yes, Sir. The Government are fully aware how anxious all Members of the House are to do whatever they canto aid the common cause which we all have at heart. I do not think it is possible for me at the moment to say any more, but when the moment comes and the Government can say something more, I can assure the hon. Member that they will do so.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will be able to extend the military age to 70 for hon. Members of this House?

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-Four Minutes before Five o'Clock' till To-morrow at a Quarter before Three o'Clock.