April 4, 2015

Finest Hour 131, Summer 2006

Page 46

Edited By Paul H. Courtenay

CHURCHILL was a master of Parliamentary Questions, wherein friends and opponents tried to put him on the spot…and some of the issues from 1943 sound eerily familiar at the moment.


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‘Not Due to Slothfulness

On 20 July 1943 a Member drew attention to a statement by the Prime Minister of Canada regarding the lack of recognition of the part played by Canadian troops in Sicilian operations.

WSC: “As I understand it, the point of the Canadian Prime Ministers remarks was that in the initial draft communique…reference was made only to ‘Allied’ Forces. On seeing this draft the Canadian authorities asked that at the earliest possible date reference should be made to the fact that Canadian Forces were taking part in the landing. Despite some possible security objections, this was at once agreed to by General Eisenhower….

“Owing to the greater distance of London from Ottawa and the six hours difference in time between them, information to this effect reached Ottawa from Washington sooner than from London. But this was not due to any slothfulness or want of appreciation on the part of any British authority….Our hearts go out to the rest of the powerful Canadian Army in this country, who have for more than three years guarded the centre of the Empire from invasion.”

Money vs. Valour

On 21 July 1943, a Member urged that the £10 a year grant to holders of the Victoria Cross should be increased, since £10 seemed to him to be an extremely paltry reward for achievement of such distinction.

WSC: “Further inquiries have been made, but they do not show any evidence of general complaint as to the adequacy of this special provision. I do not think any change in this well-established practice is called for. I do not think this is a matter to be settled entirely on a money basis, and I do not propose to advise the House to make any change. If we were to compute these matters by money values, I should be strongly in favour of much larger sums; but I think that would alter the character of these awards.”

Vaccinations

On 22 September 1943 Churchill was asked to state that any man or woman in the Services could refuse to be vaccinated without suffering any penalty.

WSC: “Inoculation is voluntary in all three Services….In the Navy, however, in the interests of the health of ships’ companies, it is necessary to refuse to those who have not been inoculated permission to land in ports where there may be a danger of contracting any of the diseases against which this treatment is aimed. If individuals who refuse to be inoculated have been threatened in any way, and if my hon. Friend will forward the particulars to the Ministers concerned, the facts will be looked into.”

The Sword of Stalingrad

On 21 October 1943 a Member asked whether MPs would have an opportunity to inspect the Sword of Stalingrad before it was sent to Russia.

WSC: “The time likely to be available for the exhibition of the sword to the public is extremely limited, and we are anxious to use it in such a way as will enable the sword to be seen as widely and by as many people as possible. This involves complicated arrangements with which I should be reluctant to interfere. As has already been announced, it is the intention that the sword should be on exhibition in Westminster Abbey on 29th, 30th and 31st of this month. I will endeavour to arrange for special facilities to be given for hon. Members to see it there.”

Basic English

Several questions were asked on 4 November 1943 regarding Basic English.

WSC: “Basic English is not intended for use among English-speaking people, but to enable a much larger body of people who do not have the good fortune to know the English language to participate more easily in our society. People are quite purblind who discuss this matter as if Basic English were a substitute for the English language.”

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