§ 45. Mr. Ellis Smith
asked the Prime Minister whether he will move to appoint a Select Committee to consider the Royal Warrant that forms the basis for the administration of the Ministry of Pensions, and that the Committee be authorised to send for papers or persons and to report?
§ The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I am not aware of any reasons which would justify the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the Royal Warrant. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions has recently conferred with his statutory Advisory Committee in regard to certain minor changes which experience has shown to be necessary, and copies of the amended Warrant will be made available to hon. Members on the next Sitting Day.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I desire to ask, Mr. Speaker, a question on Business and the procedure to be adopted. I understood from the Deputy Prime Minister that the revised Royal Warrant was to be published on the next Sitting Day. If that is so, is the procedure that the Royal Warrant will be submitted to His Majesty? In view of our past experience and the complaints in the country against the administration of previous Royal Warrants, should not the House be given an opportunity to consider this revised Royal Warrant before it is finally endorsed by His Majesty? If my understanding of the matter is correct, would the Leader of the House give an assurance that what I am asking should be adopted and that the revised Royal Warrant proposed to be published on the next Sitting Day will be withheld until the House has considered it?
§ Mr. Smith
I also had no idea that I intended to raise it. I am relying on an answer given by the Deputy Prime Minister, of which I had no knowledge. In view of the importance of this matter and before the House parts with the opportunity, may I request the Leader of the House to give this assurance? We ought to have the assurance from the Deputy Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Eden
I have my right hon. Friend's answer here, and I have been hurriedly looking at it. As I understand the position, I do not think it can be as urgent as the hon. Gentleman thinks, because, from the terms of my right hon. Friend's answer, it is clear that copies of the amended Warrant will be made available to hon. Members on our next Sitting Day. Therefore, I think that between now and then I can give a considered answer.
§ Mr. Eden
I am in a considerable difficulty. If the hon. Gentleman had given me only five minutes' notice, I could have sent for the Minister of Pensions and obtained the details of the Royal Warrant. As it is, I am quite ignorant of the terms of this Warrant, but what the hon. Gentleman suggests can, I think, be done. Anyway, I will try to meet him.
§ Mr. Stephen
Is not this the position? Since the amended Warrant will be made available to Members on our next Sitting Day, does that not show that it has already received Royal approval?
§ Mr. A. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman seems to be perplexed about the wrong thing. What is being put is not what are the amendments in the Warrant but the whole matter of procedure and that before the Royal Warrant is amended the whole procedure should be revised, as this affects the welfare, of so many of our people, and we ought to have an opportunity of considering the proposed amendments before His Majesty appends his signature.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman is still pursuing the wrong point. The issue before us is not what amendments there are or are not in the Royal Warrant. The issue before us is that a new Royal Warrant is about to be issued and that that Royal Warrant has already been approved by His Majesty before the House of Commons has had an opportunity of discussing the amendments.
§ Mr. Eden
What I wish to find out are the exact circumstances and the exact position in relation to the Royal Warrant, with which I am not familiar, I cannot be expected to carry that in my head, and that is why I wish I could have had notice. I will try to find some means of meeting the difficulty.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
In view of the seriousness of this matter, there are other steps which we can take under the Standing Orders if we choose to do so, but in view of the difficulty in which the right hon. Gentleman is, we do not want to take those steps. However, the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty is not our responsibility. It is the Government's. I also have the right to complain, because I had no knowledge of the reply which was to be given. In view of the seriousness of this matter, may I again ask whether we can have an assurance from the Leader of the House that publication of the Royal Warrant will be withheld until the right 208 hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity of giving consideration to the point?
§ Mr. Eden
I will look into this matter and try to meet my hon. Friend's point. He says that he could not have given me notice, but if he had even told me after my right hon. Friend gave his answer, I should have had a moment in which to look into the matter. But I was given no notice. I ask my hon. Friend to accept the assurance that I will do all that lies within my power to meet the point which he has raised.
§ Mr. Bellenger
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. If, as I assume, the Royal Warrant has been approved by His Majesty and will be published on the next Sitting Day, is there any step that any hon. Member can take to record his protest against the Royal Warrant and to secure a revision of it?
§ Mr. Smith
This question is so serious that I had intended to move the Adjournment of the House in order to call attention to it as a matter of urgent public importance. I do not want to be forced into that position. In regard to the accusation made by the Leader of the House about my not giving him notice, I am the last person who would wish to be discourteous, but I was not able to give him notice because of the fact that the answer was given only a few minutes ago. I had to consult authorities on procedure before I felt competent to take the stand I am now taking. May I again ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance to the House that publication of this Royal Warrant will be withheld until he and the Government have had an opportunity of considering the point I have raised?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am afraid we have spent a long time on this question. I am as ignorant of the practice as the right hon. Gentleman is. If it be the case that the Royal Warrant is not yet published and is to be published on the next Sitting Day, would it be possible to withhold publication of it until my right hon. Friend can make a statement, say, at the end of Questions then? This might solve the problem.