28 MAY 1948, Page 3


SUNBURNED faces, and the crimson dome of Mr. Dalton's head, told the tale of the Whitsun recess when the Houses of Parliament reassembled on Tuesday, and Members quickly settled down to a summer session which, if reports from Norfolk and Kent are true, will see not only tea on the terrace but abundant straw- berries as well ; always assuming, of course, that Mr. George Brown can continue to repatriate the Colorido beetles which have recently been "associated with imported vegetables."

The debate on the Board of Trade on the opening day was the best of the week. The House of Commons is like a school in many respects, but in none so much as the way in which the popularity of the bigger boys varies. A week or two ago Mr. Harold Wilson was in favour. Opposition leaders deferred to him, spoke of "his great talents" and reminded him that he is the youngest Cabinet Minister since William Pitt ; but during the recess Members had been shopping, and had found, or thought they had found, evidence that he had made a mistake. Mr. Wilson was brilliant no longer. Mr. Butcher taunted him with his youth and deplored the President's "lack of business experience," and Mr. Lyttelton described his speech as "one of the lamest" he had heard in this Parliament. But whatever Mr. Wilson's faults, courting popularity is not one of them. He knew his case, dealt with a mass of figures with assurance and remained courteous and imperturbable throughout. * * The least satisfactory part of the two speeches he made—for Mr. Belcher, temporarily toothless, was not in a position to wind up the debate—dealt with newsprint. Mr. Wilson Harris thanked him for the sympathy he had shown towards the political weeklies, and caused some misgiving among contributors to The Spectator by remarking that when he got more pages he would try to raise the standard of the articles which appear even higher than they are now. But he echoed the thoughts of the whole House when he emphasised the misunderstanding caused by lack of information about other countries, particularly America, due to shortage of space ; Mr. Eric Fletcher filled in the picture by showing how much worse the position is in France. It would be ironic indeed if collabora- tion with Western Europe and aid from America, both of which are vital to our existence, was imperilled by a policy of feed the body and starve the mind. * * * * On Wednesday Mr. Bevin was again refusing to be drawn into a discussion on Palestine, but his answers about British officers serving with the Arab Legion left everyone uneasy. Whatever the legalities of the question the appearances are so unfortunate that even pro- Arab Members felt that the officers ought to be withdrawn. The harm that is being done to Anglo-American relations was not referred to only for fear of making things worse.

After questions Mr. Henderson Stewart was promptly on his feet, pertinaciously cross-examining the Speaker, who had ruled out of order a question about the electrical breakdown. The House was on Mr. Stewart's side, but he found that ordeal of such Dickensian proportions that he could speak only "with respect," "with great respect," or "with very great respect." The Speaker took these courtesies in his stride and stuck to his ruling until Mr. Morrison admitted that such a nation-wide occurrence might fall outside the scope of "day-to-day management," even in a nationalised industry, and agreed to consider the whole question. * * * * Meanwhile in the House of Lords itself Lord Cherwell was taking his revenge on those who had criticised scientist candidates for the Civil Service, by making fun both of the Civil Service examinations and of " arts " men in general. He was answered almost as wittily by his old pupil and later colleague at Christ Church, Lord Pakenham. The debate went on long after the appointed time and it was not until 7 p.m. that Lord Portsmouth rose to advocate planned emigration and a reduction of the population to 35,000,000. The telephone attendant remained polite to the end as peers' wives rang up to find out if their Lordships were still sitting. A. M. C.