§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I beg to move,That this House regrets that Her Majesty's Government is dealing with the Business of the House incompetently, unfairly and in defiance of the best principles of Parliamentary democracy and the national interest, and records the view that this is in part brought about by the efforts of Ministers to force through measures, unrelated to the needs of the nation, for which they have no adequate support in Parliament or the country.The immediate cause of this Motion arises out of the events of last week and they have been powerfully reinforced by happenings this week. It is not my intention to try to fix the whole of the blame for these unfortunate incidents either on the Leader of the House or on the Chief Whip. The Leader of the House sometimes seems to me to be more sinned against than sinning. When he could not answer questions about business, perhaps he had not received the orders from up above. The Chief Whip is in some respects like a regimental sergeant-major carrying out orders.
Let us look now at those events. The Government failed to keep a House and lost a day, and the Leader of the House thereupon demanded that the House should do two days' work in one, which involved sitting through the night. The reason given was the need for getting the Address on the Defence Regulations and Emergency Powers up to the other place in time before they expired. That reason illustrates the point of the Motion—the mismanagement of business by the Government and their lack of consideration for this House.
Let us look, first of all, at the immediate instance. The debate on the Iron and Steel Bill was interrupted by an Adjournment for a matter of urgent public importance. I do not think that any Member of this House will complain of that. It is the right of hon. Members to raise matters of urgent public importance. Indeed, it is the duty of hon. Members, and particularly of the Opposition, to see that where these matters arise they are dealt with. That was a serious matter—the position in Kenya. Under our rules the debate on 1784 the Iron and Steel Bill was then to have continued for another three hours, from ten o'clock until one o'clock. It did not continue so long because the Government failed to keep a House.
Let us be quite clear on this. It is not the duty of the Opposition to keep a House for the Government. It is the duty of the Government to keep a House. It is their interest to get their Bills through and certainly not the business of the Opposition to facilitate a Measure which they oppose. We were not interested in its passing, but, it seems to us, nor were a majority of the Conservative Party, because there were fewer than 20 of them, I am informed, anywhere about the premises of the House of Commons. There is no real reason why, on an important matter of this kind the Opposition should be expected to keep a House for the Government and to talk to empty benches.
I have no doubt that it was a bitter moment for the Prime Minister and for the Minister of Supply when they learned that their followers did not bother to support one of their chief Measures of the Session and one of the chief Measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech. I am sure that the Chief Whip must have been disillusioned. He obviously thought that there was no need to take any particular precaution. He thought that on the Iron and Steel Bill all these enthusiastic Members would be crowding to support the Government. It was a very remarkable event. I have had some time in this House now, and I can remember counts-out on Private Members' Bills, but I do not remember a major Bill introduced by the Government being counted out. It must have made Lord Margesson turn in the other place.
I have had great difficulty in finding a precedent of any kind. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister knows that when the matter was raised I could get nothing near in the way of a precedent. I had to go back to the frequent occasions when the Conservatives brought about a suspension of the House because of the noise that they were making during the administration of the Liberal Government. I could not find an exact parallel. One would have thought that the Leader of the House would have come here in sackcloth and apologized, But no. First the Government put down 1785 a Motion to try and take the time of the next day and go straight on. They found that they could not do that. Then they took two days' business in one.
The right action would have been either to withdraw this unwanted Iron and Steel Bill or to postpone it. There was no hurry about it, after all. The Government waited a long time before they introduced it. Instead, the House was made to suffer purely through the mismanagement and incapacity of the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip and the somnolent desires of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. The result was that very important business had to be taken late at night.
I am bound to say that the time that the Government lost was most usefully spent, because instead of coming on for discussion late at night certain food Orders came on in the light of day. We were therefore able to deal very fully in the light of day with the failure of the Government to keep one of the promises on which they were returned to power—the promise of a reduction in the cost of living.
Another great talking point on the other side of the House has always been the evil of Orders, Regulations, delegated legislation and all the rest of it—put shortly by the Prime Minister as his desire to "set the people free." We always understood that these Orders, Defence Regulations and the rest were part of the fetters on the people that the right hon. Gentleman was going to strike off when he came to power. As a matter of fact, so far from the spate of Orders having fallen, I understand that it has increased during the time of the present Government.
This was by all admission vitally important business. Let us see what the present Leader of the House said about this matter. On 23rd October, 1950, the present Leader of the House was very severe on my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) who was then Leader of the House He said:… this is 23rd October; … I say that the Government are very much to blame for not having gone into these matters much earlier, instead of at the last minute throwing that at us, …Well, they threw it at us a month later, in November. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say: 1786… all parties of the House of Commons, … ought to serve notice on the Administration—I do not know what Administration will be here in 12 months' time but … we expect the Administration to make a very firm review of these orders, rules and regulations.… If there is no change at all in 12 months' time, then the House of Commons will be very critical of the Administration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 2515–18.]We therefore have the support of the right hon. Gentleman in this Motion of censure, because 24 months have passed and during part of the time the Labour Government were reviewing these Regulations, and then another Administration came in, and when the Home Secretary explained that they had not had time to go into these very fully we realised that they did need a bit of time. But they have had their 12 months and they had the benefit of the period before that, and they have done nothing about it. Nothing has been done in sorting out these Orders, and so far from bringing the matter forward in good time, we had it thrown at us in November.
Why could not this have been done earlier? There was ample time to do it in 1951. I quite agree that the Government lost time through the demise of the Crown, but their main proposals for that first Session were not very extensive. The principal Measures were the Iron and Steel Bill, which was not introduced; secondly, the Transport Bill, which was not introduced; thirdly, the Monopolies Bill, which we have heard nothing about; and fourthly, the review of Emergency Powers. Not one of them was dealt with in that Session.
After all, hon. Members opposite had six years to think over matters. They have certainly thought of Regulations for a long time. They had ample time to think what their policy was. The fact is that when they came in, they had absolutely nothing ready and had to go off on a holiday. They talked a great deal about the repeal of the Iron and Steel Act. They talked about the repeal of the Transport Act. But it is quite obvious that they had not worked out any policy.
Indeed, a year has gone by and we are still only dealing with those Bills. True, in the Gracious Speech it was announced that they were going to legislate, and in that way they gave the 1787 greatest possible uncertainty to these two great industries; but, having nothing ready, they had to let the time go on, until they bring it in now, and even now no one quite knows where they stand. Surely in that time they could have reviewed the Emergency Powers. The Monopolies Bill is a non-starter; that has gone altogether. The Transport Bill has a very mixed and curious history.
Let us see what they were doing meanwhile, instead of bringing forward these Measures and dealing with this important matter of striking off the fetters which the right hon. Gentleman said kept us all in chains. Instead of freeing the people, they were trying to abolish the free public house in the new towns. Tied houses, not freedom, was what they were interested in. They wasted time, upstairs, and downstairs, on something not even mentioned in the Gracious Speech. For some unknown reason the brewers had precedence.
A great deal more time was lost by the Prime Minister's incursion into the question of railway fares, which resulted in the sacrifice of the Minister of Transport. There is a curious ritual in this business on the part of the party opposite. Whenever they deal with transport there always has to be a sacrifice, and they sacrificed a National-Liberal Minister.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)
I was foolish enough to over-estimate my capacity for work. It is entirely my own fault and nobody else's.
§ Mr. Attlee
We all sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was terribly worried—[An HON. MEMBER: "He was ill."] I know, and he was worried. I remember very well Mr. Pybus wanting to resign and he was attacked by the hon. Members for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) and Torquay (Mr. C. Williams). It is a kind of ritual with the Conservative Party to sacrifice.
Then we had the unnecessary television business. We then had a wretched little National Health Bill, and then we had an abortive Paper on Transport. All this time was wasted through the incapacity of this Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are wasting it now."] That is an Opposition matter. "The Times" put this matter very gracefully, if rather sardonically, in an admirable leader 1788 —[Interruption.] I will give way if the hon. Member wants to say something. If he does not want to have a solo, perhaps he will cease joining me in a duet.
I thought "The Times" put this very well in a leader yesterday, reviewing the various parts of the Bill. It said:… the section which has been least altered since the first sketch and which has therefore not yet benefited from the Government's progressive enlightenment and growing touch with reality over transport.I thought that was putting it very kindly. The Government produced a terrible White Paper which was condemned by every expert on the subject; then they produce the Bill, and they are now having to force this Bill through the House under the Guillotine because it will not bear examination. Even then, the Government could not bring forward these important Regulations until the last moment, at a time when we had other business which had to be got through by a Time-table, such as the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. All this shows a complete lack of consideration for the House.
Yet two years ago, when in opposition, the Lord Privy Seal was very solicitous on behalf of the back benchers' rights of dealing with matters of this sort. He does not seem to mind at all now. It can all go through at night. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is becoming very irritated at any opposition. He introduced a Guillotine Motion, and when asked why, he said, "Because there is opposition on the Second Reading." I have known a great many Bills introduced into this House with opposition of every kind, but I have never known anyone to be so sensitive as to say "Because this Bill is opposed we have to have the Guillotine."
The fact is that the Government know that this is a thoroughly bad Bill, promoted in the interests of a few would-be profit makers, and utterly irrelevant to the real needs of this country. If the Steel Bill and the Transport Bill were really matters of import and vital to the life of this country, they would have been brought in at once. They are only brought in now because the Government have got to pay their debts. This is only one instance of general mismanagement.
One of the reasons business goes so badly in this House is the fact that a very high proportion of the Cabinet Ministers, 1789 the responsible Ministers, are in another place. We only have the Lord Privy Seal, of the Ministers who have not got heavy Departmental duties, in this House. To start with, he had to deal with health, so they relieved him of that. The ordinary custom in this House is to have a certain number of senior Ministers to assist. Instead of that, we have a collection of Departmental Ministers, many of whom are under overlords in another place, and Under-Secretaries. We are left with practically nobody but the Home Secretary.
One does not expect the Prime Minister to be here for the ordinary business of the House; the Foreign Secretary and the Colonial Secretary are abroad most of the time; the Chancellor of the Exchequer has his finance; the Minister of Labour is new to the House; the President of the Board of Trade is very inexperienced, and the Minister of Housing and Local Government is going all round the country talking about housing.
§ Mr. Attlee
The hon. Member does not quite realise that his right hon. Friend's orders are to deal with housing. I am dealing with the fact that there is nobody else in the House to deal with business. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not get the point correctly.
We admire the Home Secretary for his ability and his unfailing courtesy, but I do not know how much time he spends in the Home Office, because he is always here. He is less a Minister than an able counsel with a continual retainer on behalf of the Government on every subject. He is brought in to rescue Ministers of all kinds, to wind up debates. He holds a great number of briefs. But that is not the way to treat this House. There should be an adequate number of responsible Cabinet Ministers in the House of Commons, as the other Ministers are not really fully responsible. They are acting only under the orders of their masters in another place.
That is one of the reasons the business goes so badly in this House. Throughout the whole of this Government's proceedings one finds quite an extraordinary incoherence. Policies put forward by one Minister do not agree with those put forward 1790 by another. The Minister of Housing and Local Government—if I may mention him again—is very keen that people should be able to buy their own houses; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer promptly raises the interest rates on houses. The Minister of Labour wants to keep the wage level steady, so the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes off the food subsidies. The Prime Minister has to dash down to the House to intervene because his heart is bleeding for travellers who have to pay too much—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer raises the price of petrol and fuel oil.
In these days the Government are showing themselves to be increasingly dictatorial. Now they are trying to rush through this ill-conceived Transport Bill. We have been told today that we are to sit on it for three days next week. Everybody knows that under the Guillotine—as was said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party—this Bill is not being properly discussed. The Committee did their best to allocate fairly the amount of time allotted, but there was not enough time. It is perfectly clear to hon. Members on both sides of the House that this is a Bill which causes a good deal of feeling among people who do not support the party on these benches and that there are a great many points to be made. But it is not being adequately discussed. It is being rushed through by means of the Guillotine. The number of days allocated to it are far too few.
Then we have the dictatorial attitude of the Chief Whip on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I have sat through a great many discussions on that Bill. In my young days in the House it almost always took all night. The reason for that is simple. First, it contains a number of subjects, and secondly, because it carries on for a year a number of Bills, the fact that they are only carried on for a year means that there is some doubt whether or not they should be prolonged. Therefore, they always have to be looked at in the light of changing circumstances. That was being done when the Chief Whip moved the Closure most ruthlessly, without any adequate discussion. He strolled in—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why did not you vote against it?"] I shall have to explain because I do not think the hon. Member has understood.
1791 The proceedings of this House do not consist merely of counting heads. If that were so, we should be beaten every time. The point is that in a debate what is in the heads comes out, and that is where we score. The hon. Member reminds me of one of those curious Members who were washed in on the high tide of 1931 and who, after he had been here for a week or so, turned to one of our Members and said, "When are we going to do any business?" Our Member said, "What do you mean?" The new Member said, "I am referring to all this talking." Our Member said, "Do not you realise that this is a Parliament and its business is talking?" and the new Member said, "I never thought of that."
The whole point of the debate on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is to see that there is a proper discussion of whether those laws should be continued and that matters arising out of them are adequately discussed. That is why, on that Bill, the effective debate takes place in the Committee stage, in which the Schedule is discussed. That Schedule is not like other Schedules. In effect each one of the items in it is a separate Clause, needing discussion.
It is extremely rare to have the Closure moved on a Schedule. I believe that the last occasion was in the dying days of Mr. Balfour's Government. Only the Prime Minister will remember that. It was when they were hurrying up to be gone, and they got rid of it in that way then. But this Schedule dealt with very important matters. There were Bills which particularly concerned Scottish affairs. Scottish Members had been sitting here for hours wanting to debate them and then in strode the Chief Whip, with a black look at his hon. Friends, and moved the Closure. That is not treating the House properly.
It is a curious action on the part of a party that have been protesting that they are so keen on democracy and the rights of the subject—a party who are always quoting books, written by learned authorities, on the decay of Parliament and all the rest of it. Here they are, bludgeoning this House to get some worthless Bills through and preventing the proper discussion—both on the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act and on the Expiring Laws Continuance 1792 Bill—of matters of intense importance to the people.
I claim that we have every right to move this Motion. It is not right that people should treat this House as if it were a rubber stamp, just to pass things through. Therefore, our Motion is directed not just against two Members but against the whole misconceived policy of this Government—their failure to concentrate on essentials and their pressing forward at this time, in defiance of all precedent, with a heavy Guillotine on Measures which are not wanted in the least by the country or, judging from their attendance, by hon. Members, opposite.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)
I have today to deal with a Motion of censure, and therefore I hope I shall be pardoned if I do not confine myself entirely to the uncontroversial methods which I usually practise. Let me in the first place begin by offering my congratulations to the Leader of the Opposition who left the sharp, harsh language of the Motion behind and launched out into a general parade of all those topics which are usually a subject of discussion in our constituencies. Taking all that he said together, one must feel that he made a scathing denunciation of the Government, and I earnestly hope that that may be considered sufficient and that he will not be left at the post, as it were, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) resumes his role of virtuous indignation reinforced with the abuse for which he is celebrated.
It is a remarkable fact that, if we look at the terms of the Motion, the first occasion for 10 months in which the Opposition have moved a formal Motion against the present Government is on terms of a purely technical matter in the conduct of the House, and which has no bearing whatever upon the daily lives of the people or the march of events. No censure is urged on the manner in which the Government conduct their affairs in these anxious times either at home or abroad, and Her Majesty's Government may congratulate themselves upon the success of their administration. The country has no reason to rejoice on the feeble, barren absence of constructive thought on the part of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Attlee
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that only a few weeks ago we were on the debate on the Queen's Speech. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to cover the ground we amply covered then.
§ The Prime Minister
I should have thought that, in view of the interval that has occurred, the right hon. Gentleman might well have thought of some variants to the general indictment which we all remember he threw upon us then. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman did his best, and he had every reason to do his best. We shall have the opportunity of seeing how this works out before we get to the end of the day. I should like to look back a little on the course of events in order rightly to judge this Motion on the Paper. On Tuesday last we were expecting a strong, vigorous debate upon the Steel Bill. At the end of Questions, when we were about to take this important discussion, the Adjournment of the House was moved about a tragic incident in Kenya, and, after some vehement discussion, this was permitted by Mr. Speaker.
I was sorry that the Opposition should have concentrated upon this single point in the difficult and harrowing scene in East Africa. I thought I made a fair and reasonable offer to the Opposition, namely, to give them a whole day for the debate on East Africa. It would have protected the Second Reading of the Steel Bill from violent interruption, which would have been so much better than focusing public attention by debate and by, as it then seemed, a Division on party lines upon the action of two or three young police officers who, with only 20 native police, were confronted with 2,000 tribesmen with long knives. Upon the nerve and decision of these officers at a critical moment much depended. Had they not acted with resolution, the whole detachment of police would have been torn to pieces, even if they had fired every bullet they possessed. When there is such a state of affairs as exists in Kenya, it would be most dangerous to undermine the confidence of subordinate officers.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I thought the opening 1794 speech was fairly wide. I did not stop it, and I do not see any reason to stop this now.
§ The Prime Minister
I am only discussing this particular episode in Kenya in order to draw the attention of the House to what actually happened before the proceedings on Tuesday night. I am giving the House my own feelings at the time. When there is such a state of affairs as in Kenya, I thought myself that, if there were a debate and Division on this matter, we might rupture and break the nerve of these young people, and we might well find that great disasters and bloodshed would follow. Not only might there be a massacre, but the whole structure of Government might be weakened. All the settlers throughout this scattered country would be in mortal peril. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite will give me credit for not being afraid of interruptions or noise. It even would be much easier to be shouted down continually or booed down, because I have not the slightest doubt I could obtain publicity for any remarks I wish to make, even if they are not audible in the House.
It was this desire to debate the matter which made us make what I thought was a generous offer of a whole day's debate. However, the Opposition persisted and obtained the Adjournment. Then we came to the Steel Bill—I am showing the background in which the count was sought—which we have been told was so important—a terrible Bill of reaction. But what happened? There could have hardly been a greater contrast between the House excited in the arguments about the Adjournment on the Kenya episode and the scene at the Second Reading of the Steel Bill. Not only had the debate been wantonly disturbed and interrupted by the Opposition—
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Am I correct in understanding that the debate was interrupted in order to discuss Kenya because the Chair considered that that was an urgent matter of vital public importance, and in that case is not the right hon. Gentleman criticising the Chair?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It was not I who gave the decision, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was criticising the Chair.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The right hon. Gentleman has just said in the hearing of all of us that the interruption to which he refers, namely, the debate on the special adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, was a wanton interruption. If it were a wanton interruption, the reflection would not be upon my right hon. Friends but upon the Chair which allowed the wanton Motion to be moved.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly) rose—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Further to that point of order. Is it not a fact that on that day, when I moved the Adjournment of the House and Mr. Speaker accepted it, the Colonial Secretary himself said the matter was important? He made a statement to the House on that Tuesday, in reply to a Private Notice Question, because it was of urgent public importance.
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he will not withdraw the word "wanton"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Under the hon. Gentleman's instructions."]—although it is perfectly clear that, under the Ruling you have just given, Sir, the word "wanton" could only be an attack on the Chair. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] There is only one occupant of the Chair, and I understand it to be you, Sir, and not the dozen or so answering Members opposite. The point I put to you is this, that to call that Motion or debate "wanton" is a reflection on the Chair, without whose permission the Motion could not have been moved, and if that is so, I suggest to you that it is your duty in the Chair in this House to keep every Member of the House strictly 1796 within the rules of order even if it be the Prime Minister himself, and not to discriminate between Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Therefore, I say it is your duty—I submit to you with respect—to call upon the Prime Minister to withdraw the offending word.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If my duty is at fault, it will be discussed on Monday. I do not want to say anything about that now. In order to raise a Motion under Standing Order No. 9, a Member has to get the leave of the House, which he got, and that is all I have to say on the matter.
§ Mr. Attlee
Further to that Ruling. It is quite true that he has to get the leave of the House, but it is Mr. Speaker who says whether it is a matter of definite urgent public importance. That is a Ruling as to the nature of the subject.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is how it arises, but I do not see that "wanton" is necessarily directed to that.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
Do I understand it to be your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that Mr. Speaker would give permission for a debate in this House which can be properly described as a "wanton" subject?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Mr. Speaker allowed the matter because it was urgent, public and definite. The Prime Minister did not use the word against Mr. Speaker at all. He used it against the subject.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
Not only did he refuse to withdraw the word "wanton," but the Prime Minister went on to say that nor would he withdraw any other word he used. May I have an assurance that, while we on these back benches are confined to the rules of the House, the Prime Minister shall not have rules of his own?
§ The Prime Minister
I hope I shall be allowed a measure of free speech. I thought it was perfectly understood that the Chair interpreted the rules of the House. Those who put these rules into motion, and those who, when opportunity is given to them, cry for action—they are the ones who take the actual responsibility. And it is to them, and to them 1797 alone, the word "wanton" applies. I have got a lot to say, and I shall have to keep the House several hours if we go on at this rate. Nothing will induce me to be frustrated in unfolding the argument—not even sham points of order.
Let me recall the House to the point I had reached in the argument. I said that the Adjournment of the House was given, that the debate on the Iron and Steel Bill, which, we had been told, was very important indeed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who said so?"]—was to be interrupted at 7 p.m. We could not have had a greater contrast between the House, excited by the Adjournment on the Kenya episode, and the scene at the beginning of the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill. Not only had the debate been interrupted, but it had been made to extend to 1 a.m. instead of ending at 10 p.m. But not only that. There appeared to be a strange lack of interest on the subject on the part of the Opposition.
§ The Prime Minister
Rarely have I seen such a change of mood in the House. The Oppostion Members trooped out in all directions, and a quiet, half empty House was left to listen to the debate on a Measure which, we were told, was such a flagrant example of reactionary legislation. Nothing could more clearly vindicate the Government in allocating only two days to the debate on the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill than the lack of interest—and, I may say, of argumentative power—shown throughout the proceedings by the Opposition. [Interruption.] I am going through what happened on Tuesday.
We now reach the Adjournment at 7 p.m. on Kenya. I was very glad that the Opposition, or the responsible Members of it, on second thoughts did not force a party Division on the conduct of those young officers in their terrible ordeal, and that the right hon. Gentleman asked leave to withdraw the Motion. That shows how much better advised he and his colleagues would have been to have accepted my offer—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—yes—of a whole day's debate on the general question, on which, I understand, a reasoned Amendment could have been moved—and I understand is even now under discussion. After 1798 all, we all have common interests and responsibilities in Kenya, and the situation which has come to a head there grew up mainly in the six years of Socialist administration. Certainly there was widespread relief—and it was not confined by any means to one side of the House—when the ill-timed Motion for the Adjournment—
§ The Prime Minister
—was withdrawn. I am going on with the story. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen must look at how things strike other people, even if they do not agree.
It was with a sense of anti-climax when, at 10 p.m., we returned to the interrupted and mutilated debate on the Iron and Steel Bill. Again the Chamber was nearly deserted as the debate proceeded. I wish here and now to express my regret at the failure of the Government to maintain a quorum. The contrast between the stormy debate about Kenya, and the excitement it caused, and the curious apathy with which the de-nationalisation of the iron and steel industry is received by the Socialist Party—
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
On a point of order. When the debate on the Steel Bill was adjourned at 7 p.m. the last speaker—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Chetwynd
The last speaker was from this side of the House. When the debate was resumed at 10 p.m., Mr. Speaker had again to call on this side of the House for another speaker because there was no hon. Member opposite to speak. In those circumstances, is the Prime Minister entitled to make the remark he just made about the position in that debate?
§ The Prime Minister
There was—[Interruption.] I remain wholly unaffected by this discourtesy and interruption, because 1799 I know that nothing can possibly do more harm to hon. Gentlemen opposite than shouting down, and breaking down if they can by repeated interruption, the Minister who is responding to an official Motion of censure. Do not, I beg of them, imagine that this distresses me, except by contemplation of their conduct.
There was a sense of anti-climax, and I express my regret at the failure of the Government to maintain a quorum, but it was due to the contrast between the stormy debate—
§ The Prime Minister
I am telling the House what happened. It was due to the contrast between the stormy debate about Kenya and the apathy on the Iron and Steel Bill. As I said, this is not an excuse. It is, however, an honest explanation of the error we made in thinking that all faction was over for the night. I am confessing quite plainly that we were in error. But what was the conduct of the Opposition? Only four of their Members were present at the time—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—only four of their Members were present—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Opposition must not be afraid of argument; do not be afraid of what is coming; brace yourselves to bear it.
Only four of their Members were present in the Chamber at the time the count was taken. The hon. Member who moved the count has since stated that there were over 100 Socialist Members in the House at the time. Well, I do not know how many there were, but there were certainly more than would have been necessary to maintain a quorum. However, I quite agree that no responsibility to maintain a quorum rests on the Opposition. Nevertheless, they remained in hiding, these large numbers, or posted in the Lobbies or corridors to dissuade their colleagues from entering the Chamber. This must have taken a lot of planning and organisation—almost as much, perhaps, as was needed to alter the method of electing their "Shadow Cabinet" in order to isolate the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan).
If we failed to keep a House, it was a bona fide accident which is regretted. That the House was counted out was the result of an elaborate and deliberate 1800 manoeuvre which had no regard for the importance of the Iron and Steel Bill, or for the dignity of the House. It was wholly inconsistent with the demands put forward by the Opposition for more time for the de-nationalisation Measure. It showed their love of faction for faction's sake, and the hollowness of their objections to the iron and steel de-nationalisation Bill.
I am glad to put these two Parliamentary events before the House and the country: first, the rejection of my offer for a whole day to debate the Kenya situation rather than an Adjournment debate on a particular episode; and secondly, the elaborate scheme worked out on the back benches opposite, but later blessed by the authority of the Front Bench, for getting the House counted out. The Opposition in neither case considered the public interest. They preferred sensationalism and excitement, and a needless spoiling of our debate on iron and steel.
§ The Prime Minister
I have already said that we regret that we did not keep a quorum. I have already explained that the reason was that after the other debate on Kenya had been concluded there was—[Interruption.] Well, if hon. Gentlemen opposite will not listen I will not interrupt my own speech.
I have gone at some length and in full detail into the sequence of events which led to the count and to the House being counted out against our responsibility, on which the Opposition have based their demand for a Motion of censure, which we have naturally accorded at the earliest possible moment. The consequences of this Socialist misbehaviour involved the House in an exhausting all-night sitting, which turned out very badly for the Opposition. In a long series of Divisions they were defeated by majorities far outranging the normal and greatly improving the Government's average majority. They were far above the normal or what we received from the electors.
§ The Prime Minister
I will be perfectly frank with the House. I was better employed in sound slumber on that occasion. I was, of course, paired. If I had not 1801 taken some of these precautions I should not have sufficient strength to sustain the ordeal to which I am now being subjected.
The Opposition were beaten in this long series of Divisions. They have shown that they do not really regard the de-nationalisation of the iron and steel industry as an important or, indeed, highly controversial Measure, and this will be a valuable guide to us in considering the amount of time to be given to its later stages.
Here let me pay my tribute to the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip, who have been the subject of so much abuse. Both my right hon. Friends were in their places at the count, and I have already expressed my regret that a quorum was not maintained. But I repudiate with conviction the charge that the management of Parliamentary business this Session, or indeed since the new Parliament met, has been in any way unequal to the very difficult duties entrusted to these two Ministers.
The word "incompetence" is used in the censure Motion. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wanton incompetence."] I think that is a contradiction in terms. This rude word is not an expression of opinion which need be treated with the slightest respect. It is only a yelp of anger from men who have been beaten thoroughly in all their manoeuvres, however disreputable. Not only have Her Majesty's Government been the victors in over 250 Divisions, but they have had throughout these Divisions a majority almost double what it is on paper. Is that incompetence?
When this Parliament first met, just over a year ago, the Opposition challenged us twice on Amendments to the Address. Our actual majority is only 16. On the first occasion we had a majority of 38, and on the second 37, or more than double. Is that incompetence? In the Division on the Christmas food supplies, we had a majority of 37. Was that incompetence? In February, the Opposition tried a snap Division on an Adjournment debate on the resignation of the Chairman of the Iron and Steel Corporation. Our majority was 47. Is that incompetence?
On the question of fares, in April, we had a majority of 44. Was it incompetence that we had a majority of 64 in the 1802 debate on food? Was it incompetence that on the Steel Bill we had a majority of 36 a week ago? Was it due to incompetence that the business for last week was finished at the time originally proposed, or that the business for this week will be disposed of with equal precision? On the contrary, our success, which has been the cause of so much anger, is due not only to the competence of the Ministers concerned but to the vigour and exertions of a united party.
The present indications seem to show that public opinion is hardening in favour of Her Majesty's Government. It may well be that this tendency will be strengthened by the exhibitions we are having and by the frustration from which the Socialist Party—or Labour Party, as I call them when I mean to be polite—rent and torn with their bitter internal quarrels, is so obviously suffering.
A year ago, their party managers thought that our majority was too small for the Government to have any real expectation of long life or of being able to undo the harm and bear successfully the grievous burden we inherited. It was prophesied by the high expert Socialist authorities that by-elections would soon reduce that majority. Mr. Morgan Phillips, whose competence I should be the last to assail, in a broadcast on 2nd November of last year said—and I will read this to the house:If we cannot cut into the Government's majority in by-elections in the next 12 months, I will eat my hat.The 12 months are over, so what is going to happen? Let me say that I do not think that such an unpalatable ordeal is needed at a time when the Christmas season is upon us and there will be other things to eat. I have always been an advocate of magnanimity in victory, and so far as the Government and their supporters are concerned, I wish formally to announce that we give Mr. Phillips complete release from his obligation. We will not even occupy time in asking whether his mistake was due to his competence or incompetence.
This brings me to another point to which I must draw the attention of the House, namely, the treatment by the Opposition of the mass of routine legislation without which the administration of national affairs would be brought to 1803 a stop. Take the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I have looked into what has happened since the war. I find that in 1945 1 hour 9 minutes were taken on it; in 1946, 1 hour 21 minutes; in 1947, 1 hour 9 minutes—through all stages; in 1948, 2 hours 51 minutes, and in the second Session in 1948–49, 53 minutes. In 1950–51 the time taken was 2 hours 44 minutes; in 1951–52, 2 hours and 41 minutes—the average of all this being 1 hour and 49 minutes. In this particular Session, we have had to give 14 hours and 33 minutes, or eight times the average for the previous years.
§ The Prime Minister
That is a tempting subject—the Gas Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has given great study to it, which he will no doubt benefit by now that he is in opposition.
I wish to speak, if I may, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, who moved the Motion of censure. He said on 6th November of last year,The Opposition will be vigilant but not factious. We shall not oppose merely for the sake of opposition … the Press expect a much higher standard of public service from Socialists than they do from Conservatives. They suggest that it would be quite wrong for anyone in this House to indulge now in the kind of tactics which were indulged in during the last Parliament. They expect something altogether better from us, and they are quite right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 67.]This was a boast of a much better performance and a much higher standard which was as little fulfilled by the Opposition as were Mr. Morgan Phillips's expectations which induced him to undertake such formidable forfeits.
I now come to the Public Works Loans Bill. Here again the time spent in the last six years has been 35 minutes, 46 minutes, 46 minutes, 50 minutes, 21 minutes, and, in 1950–51, 1 hour and 22 minutes, an average of 47 minutes for all that period, the bulk of which we were in Opposition. But on this last occasion, it is 8 hours and 39 minutes, or nearly 12 times the previous average. More time has been spent in this present Session on that Bill than in the previous six. [Interruption.] I do not pretend that I have never tried to delay the proceedings of the House, 1804 but this is a Platter which is designed to affect our conduct of a Bill.
§ Mr. Anenrin Bevan (Ebbw Vale) rose—
§ The Prime Minister
Cannot you let your right hon. Friend have the afternoon, anyhow? As the right hon. Gentleman is so lonely, I will treat him with chivalry.
§ The Prime Minister
I was not reproaching any of my hon. Friends behind me but trying to throw rebukes upon those who are in the wrong this afternoon. It seems to me that it is quite clear that with this process of a handful of Members, unable and unwilling to divide the House, nevertheless delaying the whole process of legislation, they could produce a situation different from any which has hitherto confronted Parliament.
The hope of the Opposition is to hold up our de-nationalisation Measures. We cannot accept the words of the Motion that these Measures are not related "to the needs of the nation." On the contrary, we should never had faced the trouble and burden of this legislation if we were not convinced that not only were we redeeming our pledges—and who would have mocked us if we had not done so?—but that we were notably improving the conditions on which the fertility and prosperity of our trade and producton depends.
I am finishing in a minute; I will not keep hon. Members under such a vocal strain for too long. I do not want to make them so hoarse that they cannot even continue the debate. But we must now contemplate this Motion of censure, and the use of normal routine business to produce deadlocks, in their larger setting. The abusive language of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, the harsh epithets, may no doubt be dismissed with any attention it deserves, but the Motion of censure and the tactics now being employed against Her Majesty's Government in the circumstances I have described must be viewed against the general political background.
1805 We have had two General Elections in little more than two years. Each has resulted in Parliamentary majorities far smaller than are required for the convenient course of Parliamentary business. The Standing Committees are no longer the help and relief to the House of Commons that they were. A far greater portion of our business must be conducted in the whole House. That is only one of the factors which adds to the very heavy burden imposed upon Members of all parties, but so far borne, as the figures show, with greater success by Her Majesty's Government. We feel that we are in a definitely stronger position, both in the House and in the country, than we were a year ago, but I cannot feel that it would be in the national interest to have another General Election, even though it would seem that we should improve our position, and not suffer at any future election—and hon. Members opposite should pay attention to this—the serious injury which was inflicted upon by what is now admitted to be the warmonger lie.
The country needs a period of steady, stable administration to recover from its maltreatment, as we say, but anyhow from the extreme exertions and disturbance in the preceding six years; to undo some of the work that was then done and to ward off, as we are trying to do, bankruptcy; and to strengthen and broaden the foundations of peace. I have repeatedly said that we ask to be judged by deeds not words, by results not promises; and time and perseverance are needed for these.
We do not believe that it is in the power of the party opposite to prevent us from doing what we conceive to be our duty. If we act, as we shall do, in a resolute manner, we shall make it clear to our opponents that artful dodges and dull methods of delay—[An HON. MEMBER: "Obstruction."]—I am rather careful about the word obstruction; I have looked it up, but its permissibility has carefully to be considered—cannot bring the House of Commons to a standstill; or else, if that failed, it would be the prelude to a succession of General Elections contrary to the principle of the Quinquennial Act. If we can show that a Government, even with a majority as moderate as our own, can in fact do several years' good and faithful work, we 1806 shall have rendered a historic service to Parliamentary government.
We are much encouraged by what has happened so far and by the failure of the Opposition to mask their own internal feuds by uniting in hysterical and violent abuse of their opponents. Their conduct throughout this Parliament in our opinion has been reprehensible in a high degree. Far from moving a Motion of censure on Her Majesty's Government, they should shake and shiver in their shoes with shame.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
Even after the rumbustious and partisan speech we have just heard, the Opposition would be ungrateful if we did not note one point which the right hon. Gentleman made. That one point was his reference to the count the other night. The right hon. Gentleman expressed regret that the Government had failed to keep a House. It seemed to me that that was a sound and appropriate thing for the right hon. Gentleman to do, and we appreciate it. It is rather a pity that it had to wait until today and for the Prime Minister to express such regret.
The Leader of the House, who is sitting beside him, could perfectly well have been just as gracious at a stage a good deal earlier in our deliberations. When the Prime Minister added that on that occasion he himself was better employed in sound slumber, I think he evoked a certain fellow feeling in all of us, because a remark of that sort leads to a certain amount of consideration of the way in which this House conducts its business.
Towards the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech there was another passage on that general theme which was worth a certain amount of appreciation on our side. He commented on the situation brought about by the existence of a narrow Parliamentary majority shortly, but with, it seemed to me, a great deal more sense and wisdom than he ever showed when we were the Government and relying on a narrow majority. It does create some problems, and it is nice to know that the right hon Gentleman is awake to them, even though he was callous about them in the days of an earlier Parliament.
His attempts to explain the background of the count were. I thought, particularly 1807 lame. When he relied upon adjectives like "wanton" in his description of the conduct of the Opposition he laid himself open to a retort in the same vein. My right hon. Friend reminded him of the remark by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby). Apart from that, even if he disclaims any success for that kind of manoeuvre, there were some things in the conduct of the Opposition under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman which I should think he must look back on, if not with shame, at least with a certain mixture of feelings.
There was the occasion on which we had to withdraw Ministers from their work abroad, because the Opposition refused to pair them here. Any more wanton sort of action than that it is difficult to imagine. I could multiply instances, but I think that they will occur to all of us. We on this side of the House can take a certain amount of credit to ourselves—after all, the right hon. Gentleman started off by congratulating his Government, we can perhaps congratulate ourselves just a little in return—that on the whole we have been a responsible and watchful Opposition.
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman does not have the same standards of judgment about Parliamentary activities as have the majority of ordinary backbenchers, that is, the majority of hon. Members of the House. He talked on the occasion of the ending of the Adjournment debate on Kenya of a sense of anti-climax which that brought about at 10 o'clock. Most of us in this House go about our business as hon. Members of this House without thinking about climaxes or anti-climaxes. We have not the dramatic sense which the Prime Minister has. We are simply concerned with doing an ordinary day's work as Members of Parliament.
The ordinary day's work of the Government on that occasion included the keeping of a House, and there is not the slightest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman was wise to express his regret at their failure to do so. Whether he was equally wise to endorse the conduct of his right hon. Friend who holds the position of Leader of the House—he does not really lead the House, but he holds that position—is another question.
1808 The Prime Minister praised his right hon. Friend on his management of Parliamentary business, and instanced a number of cases in which the majority that the Government obtained was rather higher than it would appear on paper. If that did not happen from time to time, it would be a curious situation. After all, it is the Government who are straining every nerve to hold their position. It is the Government who must always be on their toes in the matter of winning a Division. It is the Government who must do rather more than seems absolutely necessary in matters of that sort. And if their majority, once in a while, was not rather higher than was shown on paper, the Leader of the House would be extremely incompetent.
As it is, the great majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, and one suspects also on the other side of the House as well, would not find the Prime Minister's defence of the Leader of the House particularly convincing. When one contrasts the right hon. Gentleman with his two predecessors, one notices quite a number of rather striking dissimilarities which are always to the disadvantage of the right hon. Gentleman. We have become too much accustomed to every question, every suggestion, every expression of doubt or anxiety, being met with the same kind of dead-pan stone-walling. We have become accustomed to associating that almost with the right hon. Gentleman's appearance.
There is never the come-and-go. There is never the back-chat. There is never the joking and good temper one was accustomed to during the time of previous occupants of his office. It is always a case of taking his stand, standing pat, and saying, "Oh, that is not in next week's business, I cannot answer a question like that." And that is the best of his behaviour. The worst of his behaviour is that he does not familiarise himself enough with the work of the House. What other Leader of the House in my memory—my memory is short but in the memory of other hon. Members—has ever been in such a position that he gave a reply about a piece of business, "We had better wait until the White Paper on that comes out before we debate it" and was met by the remark from the Opposition, "The White Paper was published a fortnight ago"?
1809 The right hon. Gentleman varies between dead-pan stolidity on the one hand and plain, sheer incompetence—the word in the Motion—on the other hand. And when the Prime Minister endorsed his activities, and even praised him, he was doing so, not from an objective, impartial point of view, but from the point of view that, for a leader of the Government it is an advantage to have a stonewalling, stand-pat Leader of the House, because then his majority can come into play. If he cannot keep the House with him; if he cannot keep the House in a good temper; if he cannot keep the House co-operating with a certain amount of friendship, of give-and-take and that kind of thing, he can always settle everything by relying on the majority.
These things which we are discussing just now are themselves symptoms of deeper things. I think my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was on very sound ground when he reminded the Prime Minister that the present Government have had six years in which to prepare. In fact, those six years were vital years in the existence of the party which formed the Government at the end of them.
In 1945, at the beginning of that period, the Conservative Party emerged into a political world which, both in this country and in the world outside, was a good deal different from the political world to which that party had been accustomed. It was a very unfamiliar world, and very unpleasant in a great many ways. What they should have done as an Opposition during that period—it is nice to be able to lecture them on occasions, it is one of the advantages of being in opposition that one can lecture the Government—was to settle down and learn something about this new world in which they aspired to take power.
The Labour Party had the difficult job of meeting the problems presented by the post-war world. They met them, generally speaking, with confidence and success, because they had a certain amount of understanding of and sympathy with the aspirations of the new world. During that period, and without the burden of office on their shoulders, the then Opposition could perfectly well have been familiarising themselves very thoroughly with the problems they would meet when 1810 they came to power. Instead, they did almost nothing of that sort of thing. As an opposition party, they twiddled their thumbs and waited until the newspaper owners would create a big enough vote for them to win the next Election, which of course happened in the course of time.
Today they have gone even beyond that. I understand that they are nowadays contemplating the possibility—or they have already in fact done it—of putting their relations with the public and with the voter, as a party, as distinct from the relations of the ordinary individual Member to his constituents, in the hands not merely of their own propagandists in their own office but actually of an advertising firm. I hope that this is not true. If it is, it must be just about as low a level as the ordinary conduct of day-to-day politics in this country has ever reached. It would not be necessary for them to do that kind of thing had they made a serious attempt to grasp the nature of the problems of the world after 1945. It is because they did not make that attempt that they are now in a position to give us such a fumbling, incompetent and highly partisan type of Government.
The Government, when they came into power, were heralded by the kind of propaganda which led the country to expect firm conduct of the nation's business. In point of fact, we have had chopping and changing all the time. Continually the Government have taken up positions from which they have had to resile, after just getting a push from the Opposition. The B.B.C. governors, for instance; the Home Guard—the push there was not from the Opposition but from the country as a whole—and transport, in which the push was again from the country as a whole, plus the interests involved. Every time the Government have shifted round. The other night we had the Government showing the extreme difficulty they have in making up their mind about Scottish affairs. They have, in point of fact, been a very casual and careless Government in regard to Scotland.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I do not want to say very much personally about the Secretary of State for Scotland. We find him rather a nice fellow, but I am bound to add that he came to the Secretaryship of State having served practically no 1811 apprenticeship, and I am afraid, in spite of his personal qualities, he shows a lack of Ministerial experience and of some of the qualities that go with it.
The Prime Minister, when he was in opposition, was most decided about Scottish affairs. I remember his going to one of the districts of Glasgow and making a firm and decided speech on the subject.We shall not hesitate,he said, using the familiar, magnificent and rather heroic phraseology that he likes to use,to appoint an additional under-secretary.The Government did take that heroic step, but that is almost the only thing they have done without hesitation in Scottish affairs. In Welsh affairs they have been hesitant even over that particular point.
The difficulties from which the Government suffer are due very largely to the fact that they have been hesitant in face of a set of problems which they do not fully understand. Even a specific matter like transport could have been prepared. It is extremely interesting to see what happens about transport. In 1947, when our Bill was passed, the then Opposition gave us the assurance that when they came to power there would be changes. That was five years ago. The Tory Party are supposed to have a central organisation and a central secretariat which presumably does a fair amount of donkey work for them. Yet when they came to power there was no sign whatever that any preparation had been made on the matter of transport.
They came to transport apparently completely new, in spite of the fact that they had decided as a party in 1947 that they were going to make changes. Even a matter like the transport levy, which was bound to get publicity and attract attention, could easily have been checked for its weaknesses and the party could have found these easily, either as a result of public statement or by private inquiries among their friends. The proposal was produced in the White Paper just as if they had no notion that there would be any outcry against it.
That is the whole spirit of the Government. They have come into office in the expectation of gaining their experience in office at the expense of the people whom they are governing. In fact, they have 1812 come into contact with sad facts in the course of these few years and are finding it very difficult to react properly to them. The primary reaction of the Government is to go back. They do not really want to deal with the new postwar world. They would rather deal with the world of the old days. We can easily see the cleavage—not in their ranks, because the Conservative Party has its own peculiar cement in its ranks that enables it to work in rather a different way from our methods—
§ Mr. MacPherson
There are other names for it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Money."] Some people give it curious names. In the Labour Party we have always had a number of outside Lefts who were very far on the extreme wing but we have always built up a solid and effective party. Inside the Conservative Party a different sort of process is going on. There is the younger wing represented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who have some understanding, a very sound understanding it seems to me, of present-day problems, though they are not very sure how to get their party to face them.
On the other hand, there are the people who were brought up in that party in the old world and who want to go back to the old conditions. They know the road back a lot better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his friends know the road forward. It is very unfortunate. They want to get back to the old days of lower taxation particularly, and a number of other things associated with it.
So we get the Prime Minister making almost a policy out of undoing what the Labour Party did: de-nationalisation, returning the University seats and various things of that sort. Even the idea of the convertibility of the £ is canvassed quite widely at the moment on the benches opposite. There is the old business of retrenching, saving and economising in any way. One of the meanest actions of the Government since they came to power has been cutting down the allocation to U.N.E.S.C.O., saving a miserable £40,000 for each of two years.
§ The Minister of Education (Miss Florence Horsbrugh)
The hon. Gentleman probably does not know that he is 1813 making a statement that is not correct. The amount has gone up.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I base my statement on the right hon. Lady's answer to an oral Question the other day. If my statement is wrong, it is because she has not answered the Question fully.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I can explain. What I said in my answer to the Question was that the amount in the next two years would be more than it had ever been, but not as much as was suggested by the Director-General.
§ Mr. MacPherson
The right hon. Lady is quite wrong. She gave no such answer. What she gave me were the figures. What she explained was that she was dealing with the two-year Budget of U.N.E.S.C.O. and that it had been cut down from a figure of 20 million dollars to 18 million dollars. She also explained that as a result the contribution of this country would be £730,000 instead of £810,000. That is a reduction of £80,000 over two years. That is the extent of the answer of the right hon. Lady.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will explain it in the following way. Indeed, I thought I had done so, because I remember well the answer. In the course of discussions as to the amount we should vote for two years, the United Kingdom delegation suggested that it should be kept at the same annual amount of 17.4 million dollars. The suggestion was made by other nations that this 17.4 million dollars should go up to 18 million dollars and the United Kingdom delegation agreed. The amount that the Director-General had asked for was 20 million dollars. We shall be contributing more in the next two years, therefore, if this budget goes through, and it will be larger than it has ever been.
§ Mr. MacPherson
The right hon. Lady is gracious in giving me that information but I will read her answer, which I have here:As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained in an answer yesterday the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has accepted for the two years 1953 and 1954 a budget of $18 million in place of $20 million proposed by the Director-General. The United Kingdom contribution to a budget of $20 million is estimated at about £810,000 and to a budget of $18 million at about £730,000."— 1814 [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November. 1952; Vol. 508, c. 91.]
§ Mr. Boothby
Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain to the House in what way the incompetency of the leadership of the Chief Whip is responsible for the suggested U.N.E.S.C.O. budget?
§ Mr. MacPherson
I am sorry I have not made it clear. In the party opposite there are two tendencies: one caused by the nature of the Conservative Party which wants to go back and economise; the other caused by the realists who understand that the situation in the postwar world is not one in which we can go blindly back. The Government have not yet managed to resolve that conflict in their own mind. I think, and I think history will show, that to be incompetence.
The general situation reminds me of the situation at about the same time after the First World War. Seven years after that the Baldwin Government were just getting under way in their long and useless period of office. What they did in that period was very little. What this Government are apparently setting out to do is also very little. They are just trying to undo some of what we have done, to get a little nearer to where we started. To use an American phrase, a return to normalcy is the ideal of a great many hon. Members opposite, and they find it particularly desirable in the financial field.
In the last few months we have had the extraordinary experience of back bencher after back bencher opposite putting to front benchers requests for reductions in expenditure. Right hon. Gentlement on the Front Bench opposite remember perfectly well the experience of Labour front benchers during the last two Parliaments when request after request was made from the Conservative side of the House for increases in expenditure. Now that they are in office we have a general drift towards saving. Sir Stafford Cripps once calculated the additional amount he was being asked for in this way by Conservative back benchers. I cannot remember the exact figure, but it came to hundreds of millions a year. Now, however, we have this headlong rush back to the days of comparatively low taxation. 1815 The ideal of a great many Members opposite is the ideal of the middle twenties—
§ Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)
Is the hon. Member aware that he has been speaking for nearly half an hour and has now got to the middle twenties?
§ Mr. MacPherson
I generally try to finish in 20 minutes. I have spoken for 25 minutes and I have no intention of continuing much longer. This is partly due to the right hon. Lady and partly due to causes of a more personal sort, but the hon. Gentleman will be relieved to know that I am about to finish.
Today I found the Prime Minister particularly unconvincing in his defence of the Government against the Motion. He was extremely laboured and did not make a single point in rebuttal of the points made in the Motion. The right hon. Gentleman stated, but did not attempt to prove, that many of the Measures that are being rushed through are Measures which are not really relevant to the major problems of the country, such as the increase of production and the increase in exports. Neither did he make any serious attempt to explain in what way his right hon. Friend was seriously and all the time competent, in what field he had failed and was incompetent, or in what way he had given good leadership to the House. I feel that the terms of the Motion well describe the situation in the House just now, and I am glad to add my support to it.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I should like to follow the hon. Gentleman into the problem of convertibility, which is one about which I feel strongly, but it would not be directly relevant to this Motion. I was also a little puzzled by his observations with regard to U.N.E.S.C.O. which I regard as rather a moribund institution. I did not know whether his reference to the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education indicated that she was looking backward or forwards—
§ Mr. MacPherson
It appears that the right hon. Lady was looking forward because, since that reduction has been made, there has been such difficulty in the affairs of U.N.E.S.C.O., to which the action of our Government has in part 1816 contributed, that it is now in a state of crisis. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not express happiness about that.
§ Mr. Boothby
I am not unduly worried about U.N.E.S.C.O., but I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman thinks that my right hon. Friend is looking forward. That is very satisfactory.
A number of hon. Members have been kind enough to give me notice, Mr. Speaker, that they propose to make reference today to a speech which I made some time ago at Banstead—the "harrying" speech. I think it might be for the convenience of the House if I make my position clear on this subject now, so that hon. Members can know where I stand.
Believe it or not, Mr. Speaker, that speech was on the subject of the dollar gap. That has not hitherto been generally realised in the country. In reply to a question at the end as to how we could get rid of the Government, in an ill-advised moment I gave an off-the-cuff answer. I said there were only two ways of getting rid of a government: one was to defeat them in the Division Lobby, and the other was to make their lives so unendurable that they would be glad to give up office. It seemed to me a very sensible reply at the time, and true; even when I said "harry them" and all the rest of it. I do not remember having said it, but I do not deny that I did.
I have done and said quite a lot of foolish things in my life, and also quite a number of sensible ones. I have no hesitation in saying that, on balance, I think that that particular answer was the most foolish I have ever given. I had nostalgic memories of the great days of Mr. Pringle, Mr. Hogge, Commander Kenworthy, as he then was, and Captain Wedgwood Benn. When they were conducting their buccaneering House of Commons operations, they were conducting them, of course, against a Government with a vast majority. But it was fun for those who were able to watch it, and I am old enough to have seen it going on.
At the time I gave that reply, I also thought that the country wanted to get rid of the Government and that the Government were clinging to office in defiance of public opinion. I therefore thought that great pressure should be exercised to get the Government to make a further 1817 appeal to the country. Although I was proved technically right by the Election, I was proved theoretically wrong because, broadly speaking, the balance between the two major parties was not seriously disturbed at the General Election that subsequently took place.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has now come in, because I should like to make it quite plain to the House in his presence that the views I expressed in that celebrated answer were not shared by my leaders, out of whose sight I thought it prudent to keep for some considerable time.
The Chief Whip rang me up the next morning before I had seen the newspapers and while I was still dreaming of the dollar gap—which, I remind the House had been the subject of my speech and the problem that I was discussing. His words were very nearly unprintable, certainly as nearly unprintable as is possible for him; but it was only when he informed me on the telephone at half-past seven in the morning that the present Prime Minister would tell me what he thought of the speech that I actually begged for mercy.
Therefore, I wish to exonerate my leaders altogether from any responsibility for those remarks, which I have since publicly withdrawn, and to which I subsequently and long ago, before this debate ever arose, added some further reflections particularly in a letter to the "Manchester Guardian." As one who has sat here continuously through six Parliaments, I should now like to give them briefly to the House.
It is probable, I suppose, that the present political balance in the country will be maintained for a very long period ahead—just how long ahead, one cannot tell. I thought at one time that it was bound to be ended in a very short time, but it now looks quite possible that a series of Governments will hold office by very slender majorities of not more than, perhaps, 20 or 30, which prior to the war was regarded as a quite unworkable majority.
So long as that situation continues, purely obstructive tactics on the part of the Opposition can lead only to one of two things: first, a series of General Elections, as the Prime Minister indicated this afternoon, or, alternatively, a situation in Parliament that becomes so unendurable that the whole of our Parliamentary 1818 procedure and the working of Parliament will be in jeopardy. I think that if either of these things happens, it would become a threat to our democracy.
I personally have no complaint to make over the incident of the count the other night—that was all in the game. We were, perhaps, caught napping. The Opposition scored a palpable hit in the Parliamentary game—that is all in the day's work. I suggest, however, that if this political balance is to continue—and we must all bear in mind the probability that it will—we must have more effective co-operation between the Front Benches on both sides of the House in order to get through necessary Government business.
I do not like the Guillotine, and I think that the first day's operation of the Guillotine on the Transport Bill was not very satisfactory. It would have been very much better if we could have had an arrangement, as we used to do in the old days, between the Opposition and the Government of the day with regard to the broad time under which the Committee stage should be passed, which would be far more flexible than the Guillotine can possibly be, and which would vary in accordance with how the debate ran.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that that could have been possible even under the Allocation of Time Order if sufficient total time had been allocated to the Bill? How is it possible under any arrangement at all to discuss all the details of the Bill in seven Sittings?
§ Mr. Boothby
I think not, under the prevailing temper and mood of the House, which I think this Motion of Censure may help to clear up.
§ Mr. Boothby
I do not like the way Scotland has been treated recently, but I do not see how we are going to get fair and good treatment for anybody so long as this state of real bitterness and antagonism exists, particularly between the two Front Benches. I would go so far as to say that if we could get a measure—I ask no more than that—of effective co-operation between the two Front Benches for the conduct of business—and also, may I add, a little more official approval of the idea of pairing 1819 and a little more friendliness about that—it would be very much better for the House as a whole.
§ Mr. Boothby
I am sorry not to give way, but I do not want to prolong my remarks. I rose only to make my position clear with regard to the Banstead speech.
I have quite recently met a number of young men of considerable promise belonging to both the major parties. They have told me that the conditions of the House of Commons are such that it is quite impossible for them to enter public life. That is not a good thing for the country. They see what goes on here, and they read and hear about it. They know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to lead a tolerable life during a Session of Parliament, or to make an income of their own of any kind. This will drive a lot of good young men out of public life altogether unless we make some changes.
My plea, therefore, is that the House should address itself as a whole to a new situation, unprecedented in this country, in which we have to face the possibility of a prolonged period when no Government has what used to be called a workable majority. In these circumstances, if we wish to preserve our democratic institutions, we may well have to think again.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I am very glad indeed that I have managed to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in order to follow the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), I have considerable sympathy with some of the points he has just made. This is a valuable debate. I am very glad indeed that the Motion of Censure has been moved, because it gives an opportunity, which we ought now to take, to study as carefully as we can some of the underlying trends which are now occurring and which have a certain sinister content.
I believe, with the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, that we ought to watch our step, because I think that what has been happening in this Parliament and what happened in the one before— 1820 the two Parliaments having narrow majorities—is a sign of the times, and that unless we can alter this trend we may very well be heading for a disastrous situation.
We should remember, just now particularly, that Parliamentary democracy in general throughout the world in under attack. It is not certain yet to the historians that it will survive; and it is our job, above any other nation, to try to make it work and try to adapt it to a changing world, a world which has changed fantastically rapidly in the last few decades. I do not think it is deniable that considerable adaptation is necessary.
I think we must admit that Parliaments with slender majorities are likely in the future to be the rule rather than the exception. There may be an occasion when a vast change takes place, but I think it is likely to be followed by a Parliament very evenly divided. I am not in the least surprised, nor do I particularly complain, that the Conservatives in this Parliament should propose to de-nationalise steel or transport. Anyone who voted for the Conservatives in the last General Election must have expected them to do that. Indeed, every party has occasionally to make its libation to the more extreme of its tribal gods, its pressure groups, and it is not in the least surprising.
What I want to examine is the method by which the Government are trying to get their legislation through, legislation which, Conservatives must know, just as we know, is not of great importance. There is very little interest in the country on either side in nationalisation and de-nationalisation. It is quite surprising, in view of the heat and excitement generated a year ago, how very little the constituents are now excited one way or the other.
I assume that for some time to come there will be small majorities, and I want to put to the House the proposition that where a Government have to operate in this House of Commons on a narrow majority it is quite possible, indeed probable, that the Committee stage of most of their Bills will have to be taken on the Floor of the House. We had to do that in the last Parliament, and the present Government have to do it in this. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), in his speech in 1821 the Guillotine debate the other day, showed conclusively and factually why it was that that has to be done.
The Conservative Party, with a comparatively close majority, cannot in the Standing Committee always expect to maintain a majority in the morning. Therefore, if they want to get the Committee stage taken, they have to take it on the Floor of the House. It is my belief that in the Committee stage of these Bills the function of the Opposition is not to kill the Bill; it is to improve it. It is on the Second and Third Readings that we try to stop the Bill going through and put every possible objection in its way; but, if the Opposition are defeated and the Bill goes through, it is their function in the Committee stage to do their best to ensure that the Bill, when it becomes law, will be the best possible law in the circumstances.
At this point I would refer to another aspect. It seems to me that a curious new interpretation of the function of an Opposition is becoming prevalent. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East expressed it in the reply he is alleged to have given in his Banstead speech. He said that there were only two ways of getting a Government out of power. They were either to defeat the Government in the House of Commons, or to make its life so unbearable that it would want to go.
That presupposes—I suppose there is some element of truth in this—that the function of an Opposition in the House of Commons is to get rid of the Government. I do not accept that view. It seems to me that the electorate should decide what Government it wants, and the electorate will decide when it wants to change that Government.—[An HON. MEMBER: "How can it?"]—It can easily do so. Everyone knows that the practical effect produced on the Government is not so much by the situation in the House as by the situation periodically revealed in by-elections.
It seems to me that the electorate still want this Government. I think the electorate in this are extremely stupid; but I also have to admit that that was its decision and, as a democrat, I must abide by it.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware that the Conservative Party gained 1822 fewer votes at the General Election than the party of which he is a member. Is that one of the reason he thinks they should be continued in office?
§ Mr. Usborne
I do not happen to be sure of that, and I do not believe it can in fact be sustained. There are many arguments, and I have read most of them, as to whether or not the Labour Party polled more votes than the Conservative Party. They did, of course, if one only counts the votes which were actually polled. But in certain constituencies the Member elected was unopposed—
§ Mr. Usborne
I will go ahead with my argument and my hon. and learned Friend, if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, can go forward with his.
If it be true that the majority of the voters voted Labour but the majority of the seats gained were Conservative, we have no right to complain about that, unless as a party we are prepared to advocate the reform of the electoral system. And evidently we are not prepared to do that. We cannot expect to have it both ways. It seems to me that if we are prepared to accept this anomalous, curious and illogical system to deal with curious, illogical human beings, we must abide by the result, and if we so abide we must accept the consequence.
The point I am trying to make is that the function of the Opposition is not primarily and continuously to try to defeat the Government. There are certainly occasions when that must be our objective. There are many other occasions when our duty as an Opposition is, with a shrug of the shoulders, accepting the verdict of the electorate, to try to help the Government, which the electorate has chosen, to make better legislation.
If we adopt the principle that the object of the Opposition is continuously to harass the Government so that their lives are so great a burden that they can never make a cool, calm judgment, the net result of that tactic—if I am right in my supposition that we have a long time ahead of us with narrow majorities—will be that Parliament ensures that the people get the worst possible legislation all the 1823 time. I do not think that is what we ought to do.
Having accepted, as I think we must, that the Committee stage of a great many Bills will have to be taken on the Floor of the House, precisely and admittedly because a Government with a narrow majority cannot get Bills through upstairs, it seems to follow that if we want the Committee stage to be useful and to serve a profitable purpose in the sense that it makes a Bill better, we have to try to reproduce in the House as a whole the kind of atmosphere which generally prevails in Committee upstairs.
I am against the Guillotine and I think I was the only person to oppose it when it was proposed by my own side. I am always against the Guillotine, but, if it happens that we must have the Guillotine, it is still better that it should be applied in an atmosphere more comparable to that which generally prevails in Committee upstairs, where the Members most interested get more time to devote to problems under consideration.
What we must try to do is to make the Committee stage on the Floor of the House resemble as closely as possible the atmosphere which obtains in Committee upstairs; but we cannot do that if we apply a three-line whip and insist that all our Members must be present, and prevent them from pairing with Government Members so that nearly all of them have also to be present. If that is the situation, automatically an atmosphere is produced in which it is assumed, not that we try to improve the Clauses, but that we constantly try to defeat the Government. I believe that is wrong.
The rot was not started by us. It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East confess that the fault lay only with himself, but can he deny that at the time the right hon. Member who is now Prime Minister was the leader of his party? If he was the leader of his party, he must take responsibility for the action of his party at the time. It is undeniable that they took that harassing action, which was intended not to improve the legislation we were trying to get, but to harry us and wear us out, because they thought we ought not to be in power.
§ Mr. Boothby
Will the hon. Gentleman give me credit for not having myself taken part? I never even prayed.
§ Mr. Usborne
I am not surprised. Perhaps the hon. Member would be a little better if sometimes he did pray.
The point I was on was that we have got ourselves into a parlous situation, which was created in the first place by the antics of the Conservative Party in the last Parliament. This was the first time that they experienced Government with a small majority; and they took it upon themselves to judge that the electorate were wholly against us. They started the antics of harrying and worrying the Government party, and it is hardly surprising—although I make no excuse for it—that when we became Opposition we should continue with the same bitterness the same tactics as they applied to us.
I have shown how it first came about, and why it now continues, but this analysis does not get us out of the position which we have unfortunately reached. I think the procedure we are practising today is deplorable. I do not think it does the House of Commons any credit, and I do not believe it enhances the reputation of Parliamentary democracy, which in my view is what matters.
I wanted to speak in this debate because I believe that since the Conservative Party have been at both ends of it, both the giving end and the receiving end, it is their job and duty to get up and deplore what they did and admit that it was wrong. Furthermore, they must make a promise that, if they get into Opposition again, as I trust they will very soon, they will not repeat the tactics they used in the 1950–51 Parliament. If that were done, it would be possible in the Committee stage of Bills to allow a reasonable amount of pairing so that those people who really were anxious to take part in these debates could do so in a more congenial and sympathetic atmosphere.
I am thinking now of those people who profess to be experts in certain kinds of legislation. I do not think it makes it any easier for them if many of us who are not interested or experts in these particular problems come along and make speeches. The civilisation in which we are living today is such that, if we are to make any contribution to anything, we have to try to concentrate our attention on one subject, be an expert on one subject, even if it means being almost entirely ignorant of others.
1825 It does not help those people who are wanting to use their knowledge to improve legislation if a lot of us who are not particularly interested and are not knowledgeable about it, are forced by three-line whips to be in the House night after night. Nor is it surprising if some of us get up and make speeches not much to the point and maybe facetious to give us a little publicity in our local Press.
But it is not a good thing for Parliamentary democracy, and that is what I am concerned with. I do not think it appeals to the electorate either. I think the people are now so confused at the crazy way that this House of Commons appears to be acting that they are at a loss to know how it survives and works as well as it does.
§ Mr. Usborne
I have already explained that, but perhaps the hon. Member was not in when I related how it all started and why it is now continuing.
I want to conclude by saying we have got ourselves into this position.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
I am obliged to the hon. Member for giving way, because to me it seems that he has not appreciated the weakness of his own argument. Surely the position is this. When the previous Government were in power they had a majority of only six, with the result that they studiously avoided presenting any controversial legislation to this House. Because of that, we were able to carry on as we did. The present Government have completely failed to respect that position, and, though they have a tiny majority in the House and an even smaller majority in the country, and are without any mandate for these major controversial items, they have submitted Bills dealing with transport and steel, and these have given rise to the very atmosphere that the hon. Member is deploring.
§ Mr. Usborne
I know that a lot of people use that argument and most of them believe it, but I am not entirely convinced that it was because we had a narrow majority in the last Parliament that we did not introduce some of the controversial legislation. I am sorry to be a cynic about this, but I am not satisfied that that was entirely the truth. 1826 There may have been an element of truth in what the hon. Gentleman says, but not everyone believes it is all the truth.
I come to the main point; it is that I do not think our present situation is satisfactory. It could be most easily cured if the Prime Minister or some responsible Minister on the Government Front Bench would make a speech and explain what happened in the past and who was responsible for initiating in the last Parliament the tactics we deplore today. He must explain the effect that it has on legislation, its percussions on the country as a whole, and, as I said earlier, he must promise that he will try to prevent this kind of thing from happening again if and when the Conservatives go into Opposition.
The most precious heritage we possess is this superbly delicate, wonderfully effective and illogical institution, Parliamentary democracy. It will not stay effective unless it can adapt itself. Over long centuries our forefathers in this free land have fought and died to build and preserve it.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Will the hon. Member also agree that one of the essential things to make a democracy is that Members on both sides should attend regularly?
§ Mr. Usborne
I am glad that the hon. Member who used to be my Whip has raised that point. I am not so convinced. If it is argued that the first primary and paramount duty is for all Members always to be here, then we all know what a burden is involved. If we are to be here all the time, then it means—and we must accept the consequences—that, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East said, a great many promising young people cannot, in fact, enter public life at all. I believe that the value of our Parliament is precisely because it is a microcosm of our people. It is not made up of experts or specialists who live solely upon the salary which they gain from their membership of Parliament. The whole essence of Parliamentary democracy will differ if these people cannot be here, though that will be inevitable if what my hon. Friend says is to be followed. It will be a pity if ever that happens.
The logic of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is that if this kind of situation 1827 is to prevail, then people like myself cannot be in public life. As far as I am concerned, it will make no difference to me or to the House of Commons. I do not count in this respect; but I happen to represent a Birmingham constituency in which town there are thousands and thousands of people like myself. It would be a great pity if none of the people in my sort of position are able to be represented in the House of Commons. That is my view. I could be wrong.
I will conclude by saying that our first duty is to try to make the principles of Parliamentary democracy work effectively. This involves a dual loyalty, a loyalty both to one's party and to our Parliament. In the last analysis, if, as sometimes can happen, loyalty to one's party conflicts with one's loyalty to Parliament, I have no doubt which duty comes first: it is to Parliament.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm McCorquodale (Epsom)
I am very glad to have caught you eye, Mr. Speaker, immediately after the speech of the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne). In my judgment, it was a most impressive, honest and frank speech, and a very brave one. If this Motion is to be justified in any way—personally I do not think that it is—then it can be justified in that it has called forth a speech such as the one we have just heard.
I was interested to note the reaction which it caused. I was sorry to see that it was greeted with a certain amount of incredulity and even hostility. I believe that it is the same spirit which met his arguments with hostility which is at present vitiating our Parliamentary procedure; and that our Parliamentary procedure is vitiated at present must be obvious to all of us. Indeed, that is the object of this debate.
I hope, therefore, that as much thought as is possible will be given to a great deal of what the hon. Member said. Naturally there were points with which people disagreed, but his remarks on how to make Parliament work in the best interests of the nation in the difficulties in which we find ourselves were comments on a subject which we all have very much at heart. As a speaker from this side of the House, I am glad to be able to express my admiration of the speech by the hon. Member for Yardley.
1828 I wish to make a few remarks on both parts of the Motion of censure. Many precedents can be quoted for what has been going on in Parliament recently. In the past hard words have often been spoken across the Table in the heat of debate by either side, and I am glad to say that as time goes on those hard words are soon forgotten. I sincerely say that, judging from my 20 years in Parliament, I do not think that this Opposition has been treated by this Government in a way any different—certainly no worse or more unfairly—than any Opposition has been treated by any Government during that period. Indeed, I do not think that the Opposition have anything more to complain about than any other Opposition had during the last 20 years at the hands of any Government.
Of course, Oppositions like to complain about Governments, and Governments like to complain about Oppositions from time to time. That is essential in a two-party system. But the hubbub and row that we have had over the last two or three days seem to have been totally out of proportion. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip have, if possible, been rather too indulgent sometimes with the Opposition, and precious little thanks have they had for it.
I seem to recall that only last Thursday the House could have adjourned, but the Leader of the House gave the whole day to two Prayers moved by the Opposition.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I understood from what Mr. Speaker said on that occasion that the precedent was that the House should adjourn immediately. If that is the case, then the Prayers would not have been heard.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
That is my opinion.
Further, the Motion talks about incompetence. The method by which I judge incompetence is whether one would employ in an important position, if one was in a position to give such a post to anyone, the person under consideration. I must cofess that with that in mind I would say that my two right hon. Friends come very much higher in the list of competency than their two opposite numbers whom we knew in the last Parliament. But it is rather a pity that we should have to go into these personalities on either side. It is the duty of the Government to govern and, in order to govern they must—
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) about that incident. The Opposition caught us napping. Nobody denies that. They can be congratulated upon the success of their little strategy. I understand that one of the more happy parts of the stratagem was that it was the birthday of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I was told that it was. I am sorry if my information, which I received from a Member of his Party, was wrong. I understood that that was why he was chosen for that little task.
I should like to follow a little further the comments of the hon. Member for Yardley. There is a problem of increasing difficulty which we in this House must face. We do no good to Parliament as an institution or to Parliamentary democracy as a way of life if we behave in a way which seems to the ordinary man and woman outside to have little connection with realities.
The reasons for this have been mentioned. We have these close Parliamentary majorities first on one side and then on the other. Further, the modern complexity of national life puts a much greater strain on our Parliamentary institutions, and we still have our old-fashioned methods, hallowed by centuries of tradition, of debate and of voting. I 1830 should like to see, at some appropriate time, this House as a corporate body, by means of a Select Committee or in some other way, considering these matters of making the work of the House of Commons tolerable for the Members and arranging business so that the Government of the day can, where they justify themselves in the eyes of the nation and the House, carry on with the legislation of the country.
I believe that if that were done with good will on both sides of the House we might be able to get down to some amendment of our procedure which might have the effect the hon. Gentleman opposite obviously desires, and which I believe a great number of his colleagues and a great number of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House also desire. For I am quite sure that none of us in this House is entirely happy at the way in which at present we have to carry on our affairs.
I wish to make a few remarks upon the second part of this Motion of censure, which:records the view that this is in part brought about by the efforts of Ministers to force through measures, unrelated to the needs of the nation, for which they have no adequate support in Parliament or the country.That seems to me to be a rather curious censure Motion. We usually have in a censure Motion condemnation of a Government about some particular major field of their activities. But, of course, how difficult it would be for the Opposition to be able to move a Motion of censure upon the Government, in view of the brilliant successes which they have achieved over the last year?
For instance, had the Opposition endeavoured to move a Motion of censure upon the Government for their handling of financial and economic policy, in restoring financial solvency to this country, rescuing it, as they did, from the brink of bankruptcy and ruin, they would have been laughed out of court, both in this House and in the country. Or, to take another major field of activity, if the Opposition had wished to move a Motion of censure upon the Government for its handling of defence and foreign affairs, they would, first of all, have to deal with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), the late Minister of Defence.
1831 I think that, possibly, the Prime Minister was too harsh yesterday with the late Minister of Defence. What has the late Minister of Defence been doing recently? He has been going round the country campaigning for a reduction to half of the period of National Service. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] He has been going round advocating that policy, and the interesting thing is that not all of his audiences have seen the implication of his words. Expressed freely, what in effect he is saying is that the Conservative Government having been in power for a year under the guidance of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, we are now in a position to decrease our period of National Service, owing, quite obviously, to the successes which the present Government have had. Indeed, I think we on this side of the House should be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, because these are the only implications that one can draw from the campaign which he has been running.
Then, of course, if these two large fields of policy are ruled out—and, quite obviously, they would be, because the Opposition would never dare to move a censure Motion on either of them—let them come a little nearer home. Could they move a censure Motion on such an issue as the Government's progress with the housing of the people? I think the Government's record on housing the people is now so well-known that I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale is even going to be bold enough to wind up for the Opposition tonight.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
It is comforting for the right hon. Gentleman that he will not have to justify in detail his own housing record, as against that of my right hon. Friend.
No, we all know the real object of this Motion of censure. There has been in the country a considerable amount of unease, especially amongst decent and loyal supporters of the Socialist Party, at the state of affairs in their party in Parliament. The season of Christmas is approaching—the season of friendship and good will—and I have no doubt that many expressions of opinion have been 1832 received that it would be a good thing for the two protagonists on the Opposition side—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Attlee), the late Prime Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale—to be able to be the two spokesmen for their party in the same debate.
It would be very difficult for them to be the two spokesmen of the Labour Party in a debate dealing with the practical policies which they were advocating, because it appears to the general public and especially to us here that they advocated opposite policies; but, of course, they can both agree on a Motion of censure attacking the Government—hence this censure Motion today. The success of the stratagen initiated by the hon. Member for Dudley did, I suppose, provide a sort of opportunity for the start of this Motion of censure.
May I now raise rather a personal note with regard to the last words of this Motion, which are—for which they have no adequate support in Parliament or the country.I have been engaged for some little time in carrying on the direction of a recruiting campaign on behalf of my party in the country, and therefore, it has been my privilege, possibly more clearly or more closely than that of many hon. Members, to be able to feel the political temperature of the electorate of the country at the present time.
Our campaign, I am glad to say, is going forward with very considerable success, and what we find, and what is of great interest, in view of the words of the censure Motion, is that wherever our canvassers go they are being well and enthusiastically received. There is no element of hostility in the country visible to our Conservative Party canvassers as they go on with their work.
Therefore, in view of these facts, and in view of the results in the by-elections, which bear this out, I would say that there is no possible justification, in fact or in opinion, for the view that the present Government do not possess the adequate support of the country in carrying out the Measures which they are placing before Parliament. The campaign is still in progress. I do not wish—indeed, I am not in a position—to give any final forecast of its result, but I will 1833 give this to the House, if I may. Who is responsible, more than any other, for the initiation of those Measures which the Opposition are criticising because, they say, they are without adequate support in Parliament or the country? Of course, it is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
So far as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is concerned, one would have expected that if hostility to his programme was developing in the country, signs of such hostility would be seen in his own constituency. But, in fact, the contrary is the case, and it is interesting to note that in our recruiting campaign the constituency of Woodford has been one of the most successful, in spite of the fact—
§ Mr. McCorquodale
Several score, I think I would say, but I am only speaking from memory. I had not intended to delay the House, but in view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I will tell him that one of the most encouraging features of the campaign has been the remarkable number of new recruits to the Conservative Party in constituencies regarded as Socialist strongholds, and when we come to give the final results early in the new year, hon. Members will realise how considerable that number is.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
They are not playing with us; they are paying us. They are joining our party and paying subscriptions which are very welcome.
As I was saying, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister there have been an additional 2,350 new members enrolled in the Conservative Party, and that has happened during the very period when the Measures which the Opposition are criticising as not having the support of the country were introduced and debated in this House. I say that this is proof positive of what the people of this country are thinking of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his Government.
1834 I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Government upon the Measures they have under consideration and which they have brought before the House, and here is proof that they have the support of the majority of the country in carrying them out. Therefore, I suggest that for the Opposition to claim that the Government are not acting with the support of the people of this country is proved to be false.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) told the House that Christmas was the time of good cheer. I agree with him. But it is also the time for fairy tales. However, Christmas has not yet arrived, and so this evening I propose to devote my attention not to Tory fairy tales but to facts.
The Prime Minister this afternoon, inadvertently I think, commented on the defence debate that is to come along in the New Year. He said he hoped that when it came it would be conducted on a non-party basis. It must be either one thing or the other. Either the Prime Minister's memory is failing him, or one must challenge his sincerity, because less than two years ago, in February, 1951, when the international situation was far more grave than it is today and when events in Korea were about as serious as they could possibly be, the Prime Minister treated the defence debate at that time as a petty party question and forced a Division, hoping thereby to gain power. Therefore, the claims of the Prime Minister and of his hon Friends that great Measure today should be treated on a non-party basis and in a different way from that in which they were treated by them when they were the Opposition is, in my judgment, so much humbug.
I turn now to the events of the first day of the steel debate, because in this Motion of censure we are, of course, challenging the competence, not only of the Government, but of the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary. This afternoon, the Prime Minister drew very heavily on his imagination, and in saying that I am being very charitable, for I am doing my best to keep within the rules of order. Were I not conscious of having transgressed those rules a few days ago, I should describe what the Prime Minister said this afternoon quite differently.
1835 The Prime Minister came to the House this afternoon and gave an account of the steel debate, having made no attempt whatever to try to find out what the facts were. I say that he deliberately misled not only this House but the country. The facts are that the decision to count out the House was not taken by my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. Nor did I consult them. I came back to the House at 11 o'clock and found that most of the Conservative Party had gone home. Indeed, I could have counted out the House at any time from 11 o'clock onwards that night.
Before drawing attention to the fact that there were not 40 Members present, I did not consult my right hon. Friend who was in charge of the Opposition's case on the Iron and Steel Bill. I did not even consult my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), who, as a result of my action, did not have a chance to wind up for my side of the House. Indeed, the first thing I did the next day was to go to him and express my personal regret that my action had prevented him from making his speech.
I deliberately refrained from drawing attention to the fact that 40 Members were not present as long as I could in order that the debate should not be interrupted. For my object was not merely to count out the House. That was a simple operation, for there were less than 30 Tories present that night from 11 o'clock onwards.
The real charge of incompetence against the Leader of the House and against the Patronage Secretary has not yet been made out, and the Prime Minister, it seems to me, has not yet taken the trouble to look up what has happened in the past to see what steps should have been taken when the count was called. I would draw the attention of right hon. and hon. Members to a debate which took place on 10th March, 1890, because it is from what happened then that the precedents which govern the proceedings in this matter spring.
You, Mr. Speaker, were kind enough to give the House your guidance on the decision of Mr. Speaker Lowther, but what he said on 13th November, 1912, was, in fact, based upon the discussions which took place on 10th March, 1890. On that occasion the House was counted 1836 out, and the next day the Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Gladstone, discovered that, the House having been counted out and the Order, therefore, having lapsed, the lapsed Order had by some miracle again appeared on the Order Paper.
Mr. Gladstone was reluctant to make charges against the Officers of the House, but, as far as the evidence went, it was perfectly clear that on that occasion the Order had been placed on the Paper after the House had risen. A discussion took place on that point, and Mr. W. H. Smith, the Conservative Leader of the House at the time, who had been caught out in just the same way as was the present Leader of the House the other night, came down and made the claim—which was certainly not supported by the evidence—that just at the moment that Mr. Speaker had counted out the House, the Motion to continue the debate the next day had been handed in to the Clerk at the Table.
Therefore, when I had drawn attention to the fact that there were not 40 Members present, I left my place and stood behind Mr. Speaker's Chair in order to see that in 1952 the Conservative Party did not do what the Conservative Party claimed to have done on 10th March, 1890, that is to say that they did not attempt to put down an Order after the House had been counted out. Consequently, I was in the position next morning to come to you, Mr. Speaker, and to say that I could state on oath that on this occasion the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary had not put down the Order which appeared on the Order Paper before the House was counted out, and for that reason it was out of order to resume the debate.
The charge of incompetence against the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary rests therefore on two counts. They were not in the House when the count was called, and therefore they did not know how many hon. Members were in the House but perhaps they can be forgiven for that. The second charge is of neglect of duty arising from their ignorance of procedure. They did not know what to do when the count was called.
I do not suppose that one can expect to catch the same mice with the same bit of cheese in a foreseeable time in the future, so there is no harm in my guiding the Chief Whip on the action he should take in similar circumstances if the House 1837 is counted out again. He should obtain an Order Paper, write his name on the top of it and in the few minutes of the count hand it to the Clerk at the Table and thus ensure that the debate will go on. But this action must be taken before the House is counted out.
The Tory Chief Whip did not know what to do. He did not know what had happened, and the result was that the House was counted out before he gathered his wits. On this showing every hon. Member therefore must agree that the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary are guilty of incompetence. But their incompetence is not limited merely to those two actions and their failure to know what to do in those circumstances. One of the reasons they get into difficulties about their business is that they have never understood the object of the tasks which face them.
Their job is to get the Government business through. They do not need to be "Smart Alecs" and to score points. The Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary spend no time in the House. They do not know what is going on. Time and time again the Patronage Secretary has come in and moved the closure when, if he had only waited 5 or 15 minutes at the most, he could have got the Government's business. But, being, an arrogant "Smart Alec," he comes into the Chamber and it appeals to his adolescent sense of humour to move the closure because he thinks it shows that he is a big boy now. His hon. Friends pay the penalty by losing their beauty sleep.
I am all for making this House into a workshop to ensure that legislation is examined with meticulous care and that the wheels go round. But it is asking a little too much of human nature for the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) to come to the House now and plead for co-operation. After all, co-operation is not a one-way street. If there is to be co-operation there must be give and take. There is no sign of it from the opposite side of the House. They do all the taking and none of the giving.
At the conclusion of his speech the Prime Minister talked about the circumstances in which the last election was fought. Obviously it rankled him more than a little that his majority was not as 1838 great as he had hoped it would be. I can understand that, having poured money out like water, having had the use of the organs of the Press, having had the advantage of the bias in favour of the Tory Party that exists in the B.B.C., and having woken up to find only a small majority and not a working majority, he should think that that is too bad. His rancour led him to complain about lies during the last election. That seemed to me to be about the funniest thing that has happened in this House for a long time, funny, of course, because it was unconscious humour on the part of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister pretends not to realise that his party gained power by making the most of every single difficulty that confronted this country in the last few years. The truth never worried them very much, but now that they have come to power they are not so very happy because they find that their office entails obligations. So they want us to lie down and let them do their will without effective opposition. As far as I am concerned, they are not going to do it. I stopped their gallop last Tuesday, and I shall stop it every time that I can—not of course by this same method, but I shall not find much difficulty for the Patronage Secretary is easy meat. In conclusion, may I say that I was anxious to speak in this debate so that I could tell the truth about the competence of the Patronage Secretary and the Leader of the House. I hope that by so doing it will make it difficult for the Prime Minister to move them, for they are indeed great assets to the Labour Party.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
It has been said that no one is ever written down save by himself or talked down save by himself, and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is perhaps the most striking example of it that we have had for a long time. If I may say so, the country really is not interested in what Mr. Gladstone said in 1890, or in the frightfully clever tactics that the hon. Member for Dudley employed in sitting opposite, then running out of the House and running back to watch if anyone wrote his name on a piece of paper and handed it to the Clerk at the Table.
1839 The country is interested in bigger things. The person with whom I had real sympathy during the hon. Member's speech was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who has not sat through a speech like that for a very long time. The interesting speech in this debate came from the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne). One of the difficulties in which we are placed over the count is that our difficulties in this Chamber are the symptoms of a graver malaise. The House is in a difficulty because the country is in a difficulty. The country has not decided on one side or the other in the party system, and consequently the House has not a decisive majority on one side or the other.
§ Mr. S. Silverman rose—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If the hon. Member for once would allow one speech to go on without a monologue of interruptions, he would have the perfectly new sensation of listening to what a speech in the House of Commons sounds like. If he cannot do that, let him go outside. There he can indulge in a monologue to his heart's content and then return and, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, make his own speech.
The difficulty in the House is the difficulty of divining the mind of the country and, as was truly said by the hon. Member for Yardley, the difficulty is that we shall be in this position for a very considerable time. That is the interest of this debate. We are here discussing ourselves. This is not an occasion for the exchange of party arguments about whether the Iron and Steel Bill and the Transport Bill are justified or unjustified. There are many opportunities of doing that. This is the opportunity of discussing how Parliament grapples with the situation of a narrow majority. That is a real problem—a problem of the machinery of democracy.
Like everything else, democracy is an idea which has to be translated into facts. The parties are the jaws of the vice in which the country grips the problems which the country has to consider, and if the vice is too loose or too tight then the tools available cannot be properly used upon it. I make no complaint about the party system, about its sharp 1840 or dull edge, but we must consider it in connection with how we are to keep the country prosperous and how we are to tackle the desperate problems which are preoccupying the electorate.
The reason the electorate is unmoved by many of the battles going on in this Chamber just now, is that it has more to think about. It is studying vast problems such as those raised by Professor Arnold Toynbee in his present series of talks on the B.B.C. entitled, "The World and the West"—with the problems which we see in the East, in Africa, far and wide.
On such questions I should be glad to hear the views of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I think that he would have a most interesting contribution to make if, to use his own words, he were to ascend into the stratosphere. He has made speeches on occasion which would do honour to any deliberative assembly in the whole world. I remember one such speech of his which received high compliment from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
The electorate is preoccupied with the frightful question of the capital investment programme. How are we to find enough money to re-equip this country, and, more particularly, to re-equip the country and to spare enough money, or rather capital goods—for when I say "money" I am only using it as a term—to equip the vast territories of the East, and the territories in the Colonial Empire for which we are particularly responsible?
I have said before in this House, and I say it again, that the success of the Soviet countries in their colonial empire—for the six Asiatic Republics are a colonial empire—is due not to the political revolution but to the industrial revolution. Iron, steel and electricity are the things for which the new countries long. We have to consider how these goods can be spared from here. In the face of these problems, some of the tactics which have been described tonight are not up to the level of the emergency which faces us.
§ Mr. Paget
May I interrupt, for I have great sympathy with what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said? In the light of what he has said, how can he justify the Iron and Steel Bill or the Transport Bill being pushed through 1841 when they are utterly irrelevant to these matters, knowing that those two Bills can only be had at the price of a break-down of all co-operation between the parties? We made it clear from the start that if the Government dropped those, they would have co-operation in other matters.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Let me take one further step further, or backward, in history. Exactly the same point was made when the Steel Bill was being put into force after the country had decided against it. That was the argument which was brought forward by the present Prime Minister, and I think it was well supported by the electoral figures, let alone the Parliamentary situation. The great Socialist majority of the 1945 Parliament had disappeared. Everybody knew it had disappeared. As the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said, the electorate had looked at the Socialist programme and said, "No more today thank you."
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that the actual procedure of the Steel Bill was that it would have been passed in the 1945 Parliament had it not been for the intervention of the House of Lords? The Act was put on the Statute Book. It was agreed beforehand that the Bill should go forward supposing a Labour Government were returned at the General Election, and therefore no further time of the House of Commons was involved except one day's debate to put the Bill into operation. Therefore, the two cases that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has given are not comparable in any sense whatsoever.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If I may say so, I hoped for more from the hon. Member. The fact is that on these narrow technical points which he is making we can carry on the argument all night. I only say this, which I do not think he will deny, that the great popular sweep that brought the Labour Party, not only into office but into power, in 1945 was not repeated in 1950. Nobody denies that, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman can get away from the actual figures. It is no use saying that the Conservative Party today has no majority in votes. I think there is a small, Conservative, majority in Scotland on votes; not perhaps in England and Wales. On that basis 1842 we should be entitled to put the Steel Bill into operation in Scotland and not in England, which would be ridiculous. We should not be considering the narrow points tonight.
This Parliamentary system worked in the 19th century. It solved Disraeli's problem of the Two Nations. The nation is today a homogeneous whole, without the great gaps between rich and poor which were the terror of the Victorians. It may be that further adjustments will have to be made, but by and large that great change has been carried through by the Parliamentary machine. The problem of East and West still has to be grappled with. The problems of capital investments and of the dollar gap still have to be grappled with by this Parliament.
It is not enough to say, as one hon. Member opposite said, that the way to deal with it is, as the Labour Government did in 1950, by not introducing controversial Measures. We cannot freeze up the machinery of this country for an indefinite period, running perhaps over many years, during which this equal balance of parties remains. The last person who would wish to do that is the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who is to wind up this debate. Somehow or other the process of adjustment must go on, or else this country ossifies, fossilises and dies.
That is what is worrying the electorate. They are not quite sure. The electorate is profoundly disturbed and disquieted at the long-term prospect in front of this country. Everyone knows that. Believe me, I have come into this House the hard way. I have had a good many years of electoral experience on Clydeside. I know something about the views of the proletariat in this country. From the highest to the lowest our people are concerned about the position in which we now find ourselves. They regard much of our actions here as the hysteria of the sick room.
§ Mr. I. O. Thomas
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think that the great public disquiet which he is talking about is being allayed by the policy of the Government in introducing Measures for handing back road transport and publicly-owned steel industry to private enterprise? Is that the remedy for that public disquiet that he is talking about?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I cannot have made myself clear to the hon. Gentleman. Everyone knows that it has been the complaint of hon. Members opposite that the public is showing singularly little interest in the campaign either for the nationalisation or the de-nationalisation of the great industries of the country. We believe—and we said so at election time—that, in our view, these changes ought to be carried through.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If the hon. Gentleman does not know that the ordinary woman fears that her son or brother may be taken away to the war in Korea, that the ordinary man in the street fears that the tax-gatherer will sweep away resources which ought to be invested in making his factory more efficient, that the ordinary business man travelling abroad and coming home is worrying because he feels an uneasy sensation in the world outside, wondering, "Is this the next of the great Empires to sink without a trace?", it is no use arguing with the hon. Member across the Floor of the House.
I do not think that we can deal with this problem merely by the device of a Committee on procedure.
There are many reasons for looking into this question by means of some Parliamentary device, but all Parliamentary devices are worked by the people who work them, by the spirit in which they work. I am not specially complaining about the tactics of the Opposition at the present time, nor am I apologising for the battle that I and many other hon. Members fought in the 1945 Parliament—for example, on the gas nationalisation Bill. I believe in the saying, "In defeat, defiance" and that a small band, such as we were then, should protest against what it thinks to be an injudicious act on the part of the Government. We used the machinery of Parliament as far as we could go. I do not apologise for that. I ask for no quarter and I give no quarter. I am a fighting Parliamentarian and I take the rough with the smooth. But this novel problem is one which the House of Commons as a whole should be examining and reviewing.
The "usual channels" ought to run much more smoothly than they do at present. It is a great pity, for example, that the machinery for pairing is breaking down. I agree with what was said by 1844 my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) and the hon. Member for Yardley that if we turn this House into a House of whole-time politicians, coming here at 10 o'clock in the morning and sitting here until 10 o'clock at night, day after day, week after week, and month after month, we destroy Parliament.
The hon. Member for Dudley said "Is it not necessary for the working of Parliament that Members should be present?" It is necessary that some Members should be present but that many more Members should be outside; in the country, keeping in touch with their constituents, or travelling about the world, getting in touch with people in other countries, so that they can come back here to act as an expert jury in deciding great problems to which they can make contributions of special value.
It is a complete fallacy to suggest that the great problems of today can be solved by us sitting here in rows, glaring at each other like dummies and being frowned upon by the Chief Whips. We can realise that by the size of our Chamber, which is built—and built intentionally—so that it is not big enough to hold us all. The idea is intentionally that we should not all be here at the same time, but that some of us should be out and about, returning here to give the benefits of our collective experience to the House as a whole.
We have, therefore, to examine our procedure. But we certainly have to examine our spirit. I think we must risk more than we have done the handling of Bills upstairs in Committee, with the knowledge that it is not to be regarded as a breach of faith if the Government, having had a vote against them in Committee, reverse that vote on the Floor of the House. The purpose of a Committee is to examine and report to the whole House, and if the whole House does not agree with the decision of the Committee the whole House has a perfect right to reverse the verdict of that Committee. I think many more Bills should be examined upstairs and be brought down here without there being a complaint about a breach of faith if the Government reverse the vote.
I agree with what one of my hon. Friends said, that above all things the duty of a Government is to govern. The worst of all things is to have a Parliament 1845 like the old Polish Diet, where nothing worked, because anyone could stop business by saying, "I do not agree." It is essential that the majority should rule. The rule of unanimity or no action which is paralysing the United Nations would certainly paralyse this House if it worked here. The Government have to introduce their Measures and they have to take their chance in using the responsibility which the electors have handed to them; which is certainly not the responsibility of sittting still and hoping that something will turn up.
I agree with the hon. Member for Yardley that when the verdict has been given we must all accept it. That is one of the difficulties of the Opposition just now. We have felt ourselves when in opposition that by some method or other the multiplication table could be altered, and that by heavy pressure six times six could be turned into 37 instead of 36. We have felt it when we have been within reach of defeating the Government and have then been frustrated to find the Government Whips turning up on the right-hand side and reading out their majority figures once again.
We shall not alter the present balance of parties by speeches in this House or by obstructive and harrying tactics. We are not thought any better of by the country for doing that. We have to learn to live with each other. That is the fundamental task before this Parliament.
It is all very well to say that there should be more give and take and that we ought to give more on our side. That was said when we were in opposition. We have to work it out. It is a slow process, but the fundamental fact is that the country is in great danger. The great adventure on which England has embarked—buttressed and reinforced by Scotland and Wales is in jeopardy. This huge community here has been brought into existence, this perilous state produced in which 50 million people are living in this tiny island with the prospect of another six million mouths to feed in a few years' time. It is an adventure such as no country in the world has ever tried to carry out.
I remember a great and wise man—Gilbert Murray—saying to me, "This is like the position of ancient Sparta, which had two kings. One went to war and the other slandered him at home." It 1846 brought Sparta down. It will bring this country down, too, if we continue it too long, before one of the most perilous situations any country has ever faced. One cannot have an all-in wrestling match on a tight-rope.
We have tonight a valuable opportunity, not merely for indulging in the ordinary rough and tumble thwackings of Motion of censure, but for examining our own machinery and our attitude towards far deeper and wider problems. Unless we take advantage of it, this great opportunity will have been very largely wasted. I do not think it should be wasted.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
The immediate occasion for this Motion of censure was a double failure by those Members of the Government who are immediately responsible for the conduct of Parliamentary business. The first failure was the failure to keep a House, and then there was an attempt to remedy the delay in business which was caused by that failure by obliging the House to take two days' business in one day. It is interesting to notice that that is the immediate occasion of this Motion of censure, because those two errors typify the great deficiency in the Government's attitude towards the House and Parliamentary business that has been apparent ever since they came into office.
The first error—the failure to keep a House—is an error of slackness and the second error—the attempt to burden the House with two days' business in one—is an error of panic and rush. What this House has had to put up with time and again in this Session and the last is this repeated jerky alternation on the part of the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip casually letting business go by, constantly neglecting their duty to keep a House and neglecting their duty to pay attention to their own time-table, and when they realise what has happened requiring the House to be overburdened with business in order to make up for their errors.
This Motion of censure has come about because, although that jerkiness—that pairing of the error of slackness and the error of rush—has occurred notably on this occasion, it has been typical of the whole handing of Parliamentary business. It comes from a party which, when in 1847 opposition, was repeatedly telling the House and the country how essential it was to restore the rights of Parliament as against the Executive, and it is significant to notice, in view of what they said about that, that this business that was jammed up and put down at the fag-end of another day was a piece of business which any party really concerned with the rights of Parliament as against the Executive would have taken special care to see was given adequate time—that is the provisions dealing with emergency legislation.
The Prime Minister has given us some sort of explanation of how these errors came to be committed. The Prime Minister indeed has very great gifts of narrative. He has been able to describe in writing an enormous number of episodes in such language that one would suppose that he himself had been there as an eyewitness, and this afternoon, again, we heard this capacity to describe with more vividness than accuracy events in which he himself was not a participant.
The Prime Minister said the trouble was partly due to the fact that we had had a very heated debate on Kenya. As a matter of fact, the debate on Kenya was not heated; it was an extremely serious and sober debate. Moreover, whatever the character of the debate, it is surely an extraordinary proposition to say that, because certain hon. Members had to spend an unexpected three hours debating a very serious situation in the Colonial Empire, they therefore could not be expected to be in their places for an important Bill a few hours later. Yet this is what the Prime Minister was telling the House.
He was also saying that there had been no interest in the Steel Bill on this side of the House, although he combined that with the statement that there had been very careful planning of the count. As a matter of fact, neither of those statements was true, and, in any event, they contradicted each other, because if the count had been the result of a carefully conserted plan, such a plan could not have been carried through by people who were not interested in frustrating the Government's intentions on the Steel Bill. As anyone who studies the record of the debate will discover, we were getting to a position in which there had to be consecutive speeches from this side of the House because the party opposite could no longer provide any speakers on the 1848 Bill. This, again, was a Bill for which the Government claimed there was very great need as part of the general task of setting the nation free from the bonds of Socialism.
One or two other remarks which the Prime Minister made illustrate, I think, the Government's attitude to Parliament as a whole. He referred to the count of the House as a piece of misbehaviour on the part of the Opposition. As a matter of fact, it is a piece of Parliamentary procedure provided in our Standing Orders, and it is entirely within the rights of any hon. Member to invoke it, but because it does not fit in with the plans of the Conservative Party it is described as misbehaviour.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that he had hoped that after the Kenya debate there would be no further faction that evening. Faction is a word which is used to describe any disagreement with the opinions of the Conservative Party on the steel industry. He further said that the debate today was on a mere technicality. The question whether Government supporters should show sufficient respect for the House to attend its sittings, the question whether the House should be required to do two days' business in the time properly required for one—apparently these were mere technicalities. I do not think that would be the view of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) who has just made so interesting and dignified a speech.
This obiter dicta of the Prime Minister, these words in which, perhaps unconciously, he revealed the frame of mind of this Government towards Parliament, show us where the real trouble lies and why this situation has arisen. We have here a Government which does not regard the proper conduct of Parliamentary business as of any particular importance. It is concerned simply to push through a particular programme and has made no study of how a Government should deal with an Opposition and how to deal with Parliamentary procedure when it is carrying through highly controversial legislation.
I would make this submission: that it is the job of a Government, and particularly the job of the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip, to consider what is the proper way of getting a controversial 1849 programme through. I think there are two elements in that task. One is that there must be a certain measure of consultation between the Government and the Opposition. This was urged by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) and by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, as well as by other speakers. But what degree of consultation have we had from this Government?
A little while ago the House was being asked to pass a Guillotine Motion when there had not even been an attempt to consult between Government and Opposition as to how much time should be spent on the Committee stage of the Bill—and none of the right hon. or hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the benches opposite this afternoon, opposing this Motion of censure and saying that we ought to have a certain degree of consultation and give and take between Government and Opposition, were then prepared to get up and protest about the introduction of the Guillotine upon a Bill before there had been any attempt to reach a Time-table by means of consultation.
I am bound to say that, although there must be a certain minimum of consultation, it is important that the House should not overdo this idea that there should be consultation, agreement and give and take between the two sides.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
An offer was made of one day for the Kenya debate rather than breaking into the steel debate. That is the sort of consultation which the hon. Gentleman says does not exist.
§ Mr. Stewart
We were asking for a debate at that time on what the Prime Minister himself described as an extremely critical situation. To offer a debate at the wrong time is not consultation. I think we can overdo this idea that there should be give and take and generous agreement between the two sides. Some measure of consultation there must be, and the Government would be in a stronger position in resisting this Motion of censure if they had made any serious attempt to get such consultation; but when we have the necessary minimum of agreement to make it possible for business to be done and ideas to be exchanged, then the Government must expect the Opposition resolutely and 1850 steadily to oppose and to use for the purposes of opposition all the opportunities which the rules of the House give them.
This House does not best consult its dignity by being in a state of elegant freedom. It best consults its dignity by being alive. Our constituents did not send us here to enter into elegant discussions with one another for our own private convenience. They elected us to one side of the House or the other because they hold, and they believe we hold, certain very strong, profound, sincere and widely-differing views between one side of the House and the other on questions of major importance.
At the moment the world, the whole of mankind, is going through a gigantic social revolution. In some countries that takes a violent and terrible form. We in this country enjoy the great blessing of being able to use the comparatively civilised form of Parliamentary democracy, but let the people who elect their Parliament imagine that the differences between the two sides are, after all, nothing very much and that we can get round them in this way and that, and Parliamentary democracy will be in danger.
That is what a persistence in the kind of treatment which this Government have given Parliament would, in fact, do. That is what, consciously or unconsciously, the attitude of the Leader of the House towards Parliament is saying. It is saying, "Look here; we have a programme to put through, and it is very unsporting of you to get in the way. You are interfering with the proper Parliamentary processes." The Government have not yet grasped the idea that, subject to a bare minimum of consultation and agreement, they must expect resolute, tenacious and skilful opposition; and it is their job to find out how to meet it without starving Parliament of business on one day and piling two days' business upon it next day. If the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House cannot do that, they had better give way to people who can. We were able to do it during the six years of the Labour Government. It can be done if there are competent people at the direction of events and if, behind them, there is a party which is firmly convinced of the rightness of what it is doing.
1851 I wonder if we have got that, because another cause of the trouble is the profound irrelevance to the real needs of the country and of mankind of most of the legislation that has been put before us by this Government. We listened with very great pleasure, as we always do, to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove. He gave us a very thoughtful piece of political philosophy applied to the circumstances of the present age, but, as was apparent when one or two of my hon. Friends intervened, what relevance was there between his serious consideration of world events and the rather shabby and ill-thought out legislation the present Government are trying to drive through the Parliamentary machine in order to placate the financial interests behind the Conservative Party?
Finally, I would say that that puts the finger on another cause of the trouble—the decline of the standards of the party opposite. There was a time when it prided itself on being a party that maintained a gentlemanly and scholarly tradition that would have paid the greatest regard to the great history and traditions of this House, and would not have handled affairs in the way they have been handled in the last few months by the present Leader of the House. But what has been happening to the Conservative Party in recent years is the increasing commercialisation of it. It has been turned into a kind of cheap-Jack emporium.
What the right hon. and gallant Gentleman reminds me of—if he will forgive me for saying so—is this. One sometimes used to see striding along the floor of a cheap-Jack emporium some distinguished veteran soldier employed there as a shop walker in an attempt by the management to add, by his distinguished appearance, with his medals of campaigns on his chest, some degree of tone to a dubious establishment. But the gap between the voices of reason that have come from one or two speakers on that side and the grinding of the commercial bargain between the Conservative Party and the interests who want these Bills is apparent all the time, and it is there that we find one of the great causes of the mishandling of Parliamentary 1852 business, on which we are now passing our censure.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I think the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) took a rather shabby view of the party on this side, and I think he completely failed to differentiate between a party that is alive and one that is fighting. Maybe the Socialist Party has to fight within itself to prove it is alive, but I do think that this party can be alive without fighting an internal battle.
§ Mr. Astor
Hon. Members are here. There are certainly as many hon. Members on this side as there are on the other. That denotes the streak which runs through the party opposite. In order to show their constituents how clever they are, and how alive, they have to have internal fights.
I would address my remarks to procedure. I am probably the most inexperienced Member of this Chamber, and, therefore, I speak in all humility about procedure. I had thought at the beginning of this debate that my ignorance of procedure prevented me from appreciating some of the tactics that my side and the side opposite used, but I gather that there is general unrest and discontent at the way Parliamentary government is proceeding and has proceeded for the last two years.
I address my remarks to both sides, for I am not convinced that my party would behave differently if it was in Opposition or that the Opposition would behave differently if they were in power. Both parties are guilty of having used the Guillotine, and anyone interested in democracy must consider that a crime; and both parties are guilty of having harassed the Government, maybe unduly.
I submit that this Motion of censure is evidence of a far deeper and more profound sickness than the mere competence or incompetence of two personalities or a number of personalities in the Government. I submit that the trouble may lie in the fact that our whole legislative procedure was geared to cope with events before the war, and it has not been recalibrated and re-adjusted to meet postwar events. I think no hon. Member would disagree that under the laws of 1853 probability there will be small majorities in the foreseeable future, and there will also be more legislation than there was before the war. The result is that whichever party is in power the legislative programme is so full there is a small margin for unexpected debates, and the whole emphasis is put on tactics and not on serious, statesmanlike discussion.
I submit that the result of all-night sittings brings discredit to both parties. I was never one to think that harassing by my party when the Opposition were in power brought credit. I do not think it did. I do not think harassing or all-night sittings bring credit to the Opposition at the moment. I submit that this Chamber, that has hitherto been the envy and admiration of every democratic country in the world, becomes after a certain hour in the night a chamber of horrors—and I say this in all seriousness. I think that the horrors are not seen until next day.
§ Mr. Astor
Some of them may be seen. They may be seen half asleep, and voting without knowing what they are voting for. I think right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches on both sides have misappreciated the extent to which the public criticise this House at the present time. I believe that they may well ask, are right hon. and hon. Members, who are quite incapable of putting their own House in order and running their own business in a sane way, capable of running the country's business? I think that they do ask that question and are gradually coming to the conclusion that they are not able to run the country's business in a sane and proper way.
I suggest that it would be far from the thought and wish of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches on both sides, if in 10 years' time, it could be correctly said that it was the leading politicians between 1945 and 1960 who allowed the mother of Parliaments to be so discredited and degraded in the eyes of the public that the status of Parliament fell. I personally believe that in this issue the public are ahead of the politicians. I think that that does happen sometimes. I think people who are outside any organisation sometimes see tendencies and trends in it more clearly than the people 1854 involved in the day-to-day work of the organisation. I believe that the present status of parliamentary government in this country has slipped and is slipping, and it is up to—
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Dartford)
If this is so—and it is a very serious matter—how does the hon. Gentleman explain that the percentages of the people going to the polls have been getting higher at every successive election?
§ Mr. Astor
I think that the political education of this country is increasing and will increase, but I do not think that the estimation of the politicians themselves or of the way they behave has gone up. That has gone down, and is going down, and quite rightly too, because I cannot see—and I say this in all sincerity—how Ministers can conceivably attack the problems before them if they do not get to bed till five six, seven, eight and nine o'clock in the morning, any more than other hon. Members who have other responsibilities can bring clear minds to their business after these all-night Sittings. No one can be efficient if they have been up all night. I suggest that these all-night sittings result from the fact that the machine is not geared to present-day circumstances, and I hope the Government will set up a Select Committee to investigate the possibility, not of a radical change but of a re-adjustment of the present system to meet the conditions of the day.
§ Mr. Dryden Brook (Halifax)
Will the hon. Gentleman use his influence with his own side in order that the first step shall be that the House meets at a reasonable hour—say nine o'clock?
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Gentleman takes the view that hon. Members ought to have other responsibilities outside this House. Some of us come from the fitter's bench, where we worked in overalls. Does he suggest that I should start at six o'clock in the morning, do an eight-hour shift and then come here? Does not the fact that we represent such people give us enough title to sit here, rather than that we should represent the rentier class?
§ Mr. Astor
The qualification of having been in industry is, in itself, obviously adequate and the best reason for being in this House. I am not saying it is not. What I suggest is that we cannot conceivably get young men to enter politics and public life if there is not time for them to have other responsibilities as well.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
Would the hon. Gentleman conduct his own business by starting it in the evening and then, on occasions, going through the night in order to finish it?
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
On the contrary. My hon. Friend put to the hon. Gentleman the proposition whether we ought not to start at a reasonable hour, and do a day's work, from nine o'clock to ten o'clock. I understand the hon. Gentleman to oppose that, and I am asking whether he would run his own business by regularly starting work in the evening, and often going on through the night.
§ Mr. Astor
If the hon. and learned Gentleman would let me finish he might understand what I am getting at. I do not think the House should meet early. I am not advocating anything like that, or any radical change. No doubt the House could meet a little earlier and not go on quite so late, stopping at midnight, or something like that. I hope the Government will set up a Select Committee to investigate this.
1856 Whatever that Select Committee did, even if it made a negative report, even if it said the situation is unadjustable, at least it would show the public that Members are conscious of this sickness, this malaise which is coming over Parliamentary Government. If the Select Committee made some suggestions they could be tried. If the usual channels are blocked and there is only a trickle through them, surely we ought to unblock them. I, personally, am rather horrified at the smugness of hon. and right hon. Members who feel that the public are so pleased with the way business is conducted in this House, because I do not think they are.
§ Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)
Does the hon. Gentleman know that last Thursday, after going all through the night, at quarter to nine I initiated the Adjournment debate, and that we had a very good discussion, with three Ministers in attendance?
§ Mr. Astor
The hon. Gentleman is outstanding. He must have had a lot of experience of staying up late when he was young.
I feel that both parties and the whole Parliamentary system are discredited by the present procedure, and I hope that a Select Committee is set up, because it could certainly do no harm and might conceivably do some good.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I am rather sorry that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Astor) took so much time criticising what he called the "Mother of Parliaments," and criticising our exercise of the freedom which Members in this House have exercised immemorially. I am sorry that he did not attack the checks which have been put more recently—to get back to the very narrow point we are discussing today—upon the freedom of speech of Members in this House, rather than assist those critics outside the House who make it their job, as part of their propaganda, to try to undermine the confidence of the electorate in the House of Commons.
One could call this House, not the "Mother of Parliaments" but, in a really democratic sense, the "daughter of Parliaments," because this House only started to function with a membership elected by universal franchise a few years 1857 ago; it is only beginning to work in a really democratic sense. In that context I can understand the hon. Gentleman and his friends assisting those irresponsible critics outside who want further to undermine the confidence of the electorate in their own Parliament. But that is a dangerous game, and the more Members of Parliament play that dangerous game, the more the authority of Parliament and respect for it on the part of the electorate will be reduced.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I did not suggest that at all. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would have a look at what I said in HANSARD in the morning when he is regretfully reading his own speech over again.
There are so many people going around this country and, I regret, now going about the House of Commons—it is all some of them have to do here—saying to Parliament, to quote a now famous phrase of recent coinage, "Shut your gob." The more people go about saying that Members of Parliament should shut up, should stop talking so much in the House of Commons—though I do not know what else they are supposed to do in the House of Commons—the more they undermine its authority and its dignity and ultimately the confidence of the electorate in the House.
After listening to speeches at a very high level indeed, like those of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), I apologise for having to ask the House to permit me to come down to the level of the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, but it is necessary that we should defend ourselves against that sort of soap-box attack upon our Parliamentary institutions and our right to free speech as an Opposition in this House, which it is our function to perform. It is necessary to reply to him in every way that we can.
One of the few things that we can do to defend ourselves at this critically dangerous time against the Tories' attack upon the freedom of speech of Members in the House is to put a Motion of Censure of this kind on the Order Paper. 1858 The Prime Minister was so obviously resentful of it that that in itself may have reduced his speech to a lower level of quality and content than even he intended.
The Prime Minister spent a great deal of time during his speech in twitting the Opposition about splits and differences on this side of the House. He should be the last man to talk about splits and differences in any political party in the House. The split between himself and his friends was as wide as the Gangway on his side of the House year after year, as we all remember. I remember the ugly looks he used to get, without any reference to physical features, from the Secretary of State for Scotland, from the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove and from the present Chancellor of the Exchequer all through the years when he was kept at arm's length from the rest of his comrades and colleagues on those benches in the days when they were in Government before the war. It comes very poorly from the right hon. Gentleman to talk about splits and differences, and perhaps he might forget the jibe for just a little while. But he should not be allowed to forget that he himself was one of the causes of the splits in his own party in those days.
Today, the Prime Minister made the point in defence of the absence of his hon. Friends on the occasion of the count that he himself was better employed sleeping than de-nationalising steel. At last, we got something there on which we could all agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and we hope that he will carry that statement of policy, as it may be—and as, no doubt, was also his defence of the absence of his colleagues—into effect by doing something about scrapping that unfortunate and unseemly Bill.
The Prime Minister then went on to attack the Opposition for performing their duty in regard to what he called "routine legislation." But that routine legislation, as he called it, contained a number of most important provisions affecting millions of people in this country and their welfare. I noticed with regret that the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, an ex-Secretary of State for Scotland, who made an excellent speech tonight, managed to go right round the world, to come back to England, and then, as a final little afterthought, to remember that Scotland existed.
1859 It seems sad that one has to remind an ex-Secretary of State for Scotland that, even if he regards Scotland as the weakest link in that chain of nations round the world which he referred to in his speech, the chain is no stronger than its weakest link and that if Scotland is its weakest link, it is because it inherited a great deal of neglect from the days in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was Secretary of State for Scotland.
Perhaps I may refer to the importance that even the Tories attached before the War to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Any Member can go into the Library and look, for instance, at the discussions in November, 1936, when we discussed the then Bill from 6.29 p.m. to 6 o'clock in the morning. In 1938, again we had a full discussion, by arrangement with the then Chief Whip, Captain Margesson. Indeed he appealed to us, only after we had gone on for about two hours already on the Money Resolution in connection with the Bill, that we should not go on too long because he wanted to get that part of the Bill through in order to facilitate full discussion in the Committee stage. When we came to that stage, we did indeed get a full day's discussion on it.
That was the feeling in those days, even of Captain Margesson, and we know what a real tough guy we used to think he was as Chief Whip in this House. But if he were in the House today, even he would be shocked at the way in which his colleagues have tried to narrow down freedom and rights of discussion, not least on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
Look at the names of some of those who spoke on the Bill in the House at that time: James Maxton, Jack Lawson, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ben Smith. Viscount Wolmer, Mr. Ridley and the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby). Actually, a Liberal, Wilfrid Roberts, was allowed to speak on that occasion. There were also Sir Robert Home and a number of Members on each side of the House, including the present Minister of Transport, the present Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Labour of that time, the notorious Ernest Brown.
1860 In passing, it will be quite interesting for the Secretary of State for Scotland to notice this little coincidence. I am sorry that his Joint Under-Secretaries are not present tonight to listen to this little quotation. Speaking on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill on 17th November, 1936, Mr. Ernest Brown intervened at a certain point in the discussion to say:I think it may be for the convenience of the House if I say a few words at this point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1936; Vol. 317, c. 1670.]Then the discussion went on for some hours afterwards—a full and interesting discussion.
On the occasion of the present Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, one of the Joint Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), got up and used these words:It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervened for a few moments at this point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1474.]Those are almost exactly the same words, learnt parrot-fashion from his old mentor and the party's prophet, Ernest Brown. The hon. Member for Fife, East was only too apt a pupil, because on this occasion, after he had uttered the words, his party did not have the decency that even Ernest Brown had to continue the discussion. They closured it, and then proceeded further to move, "That this be the Schedule to the Bill." From that moment, there was no possibility of discussing Scotland or anything else.
There was the same procedure when we came to the Transport Bill the other night. We had, I think, about 52 or 53 minutes of our valuable Parliamentary time devoted to the whole of the problems of Scotland in respect of road transport under the Bill.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
We did have about a couple of hours—I have not worked out the time—on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill on Scottish matters.
§ Mr. MacMillan
To the best of my memory, we had somewhere about one hour over the discussion of all the Scottish topics.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has not forgotten how many things there were under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. There were for instance, the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Act, 1949, the Education (Exemptions) (Scotland), Act, 1947, and the Rents of Furnished Houses (Scotland) Act, and these are extremely important to the people that the Tory Party are supposed to be looking after. Think of the tens of thousands of small shopkeepers that the Tories look after in Scotland with the help of Lord Woolton and his friends. They went undiscussed. Think, too, of the many things that were completely unmentioned that night because the Secretary of State for Scotland and his friends thought, like the Prime Minister, that it was more important to go home to bed than to be legislating in this Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] He said it himself, and I am merely quoting what he said.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
Why did the hon. Member and his hon. Friends refuse to speak up for Scotland by not going into the Division Lobby?
§ Mr. MacMillan
The hon. Gentleman could have come and found out for himself. He can look up HANSARD. The reference was to the occasion—
§ Sir W. Darling
I was hoping to find a more reliable source of information—or, at least, one that was equally reliable. I ask again: Did the hon. Member, with his hon. Friends, refrain from speaking up for Scotland in the Division Lobby that night?
§ Mr. MacMillan
With my hon. Friends from Scotland, I sat in the Chamber hoping that we would have the opportunity of discussing some very important matters affecting millions of people in Scotland. There were several most important Measures which, when the Tories were in Opposition before the war, were then treated as important Measures. They insisted on having a full discussion of them when we were putting the Measures through this House. The right hon. and gallant Member for 1862 Kelvingrove at least should have made some protest in the name of Scotland against the treatment of his country under the gag which was operated the other night.
One of the difficulties from which we suffer is that there are two Chief Whips, as the Secretary of State for Scotland is still a Chief Whip rather than Secretary of State for Scotland. The present Chief Whip has the duty of enforcing silence from us, but the Secretary of State is simply a Chief Whip who has retired to endless silence at the Scottish Office. One of the jobs of the Whips was to arrange to curtail discussion on Scottish affairs in this House as soon as it became inconvenient to have more discussions. The right hon. Gentleman got up and used words which, if not intended to deceive, led us to make the mistake of trusting him.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
The hon. Member will find the opening words to which he referred are used very often.
§ Mr. MacMillan
The discussion on that occasion had hardly commenced having regard to the things we were discussing, and I think only two hon. Members had spoken. In all that night there were four Front Bench speakers and two back bench speakers covering all the Bills under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove was most anxious to speak and was frustrated, as he has been for quite a long time. He was desperately anxious to speak and was popping up and down throughout the early part of the speeches from this side of the House. He got in a few words about Lanark Market which, I should explain, is a market for livestock in Lanarkshire. That was on the Transport Bill, and I do not know how he worked it in, but I presume that he considered that the next step for transport after the market would be the Tory slaughterhouse. He had his opportunity later, but lost his enthusiasm and has never been able to make his speech since because of the operation of the gag put on by his own Chief Whip and the Under-Secretary of State.
Scottish hon. Members do not want to make a nationalist issue of it, nor to overdo criticism in respect of Scotland alone, because we think it applies to the whole of these discussions, to the whole of this procedure and these debates. We 1863 are not speaking for Scotland alone but as hon. Members of this House. But it is also our specific duty, as hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, to raise matters which are of importance to Scotland. We have been denied that opportunity, although the Government have no fewer than three Under-Secretaries for Scotland and a Minister of State in another place.
I speak for all Scottish colleagues on this side of the House and, I am sure, for colleagues from all parts of the United Kingdom in protesting that the Secretary of State has failed to exercise his duty as Secretary of State in defending, first, the rights of the Scottish people to have their affairs discussed and dealt with in this House—the rights of Scottish Members for which he has some responsibility, I think, at least some moral responsibility, to deal with them—and, secondly, for having failed in any way to exercise his influence, if he has any, on the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House. Hon. Members on this side of the House representing Scottish constituencies were prevented from speaking by the tyrannical action of the gagging by the Secretary of State, the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
When the party to which I belong climbs on the fence, it usually finds itself on a rather lonely eminence. I must say that tonight, if they were free to choose, we might find the fence weighed down by at least the formidable figures of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), and also, I think, by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor). They have expressed very grave doubts about the condition of business in this House. That may certainly be a matter for which all Members bear some responsibility, but the Government can certainly not escape a heavy share of that responsibility. If their own supporters are correct, they must take some share of whatever blame there may be.
I sympathise with the doubts that have been expressed. There is widespread concern in the country about many great issues to which the right hon. and gallant 1864 Member for Kelvingrove drew attention. If one travels abroad one finds a great admiration for this country, but also no little concern about its future. These are matters to which Parliament should address its mind and for which it should have adequate machinery so that reasonable discussion can take place. I certainly support the appeal that has been made for some sort of investigation into the conduct of Parliamentary business.
Like the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan), however, I do not think we should take too tragic a view of a certain amount of inter-party bickering. I must confess that sometimes when one reads HANSARD the morning after it does seem a little difficult to distinguish from "Beachcomber" in the "Daily Express." I can well imagine that when the Press Council is set up—on an entirely voluntary basis, of course—one of the first complaints may be from serious journalists like "Beachcomber" about this unwarranted cut-throat competition.
It is nevertheless surprising to hear this complaint coming from the Conservative Party. Although it was rather before my time, I understand that in the days before the First World War they carried on a filibuster and used all the Parliamentary tricks in a way which would make the present Labour Party tactics seem like chicken feed—or perhaps I should say goose feed. Who was it who did this? Not a few disreputable back benchers; people like members of the great and revered family of Cecil were in the forefront. But Parliament has survived and is still here, and few hon. Members think that it is not the premier legislative body of the world.
I feel, therefore, that while it may be very necessary to examine a change of methods to deal with changed circumstances, those circumstances arise not so much from the fact that parties are equally divided or because there has been a certain rising of tempers in the House but because of the problems of today and because Parliament, as has been mentioned previously in the debate, has to attend to all sorts of matters which in the 19th century were outside its purview. It is on these grounds primarily that I think there is certainly a strong case for investigation.
I began by mentioning the unpleasant fact that tonight the Liberal Party will 1865 be unable to vote on either side. I am sure that my reasons will appeal to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who only wants to "whip" into the Lobby those who accept the doctrines of Socialism. We do not accept them, and if we were to vote for this Motion we should be saying that we would prefer a Socialist Government to a Conservative Government. I must say candidly that at present, at any rate, we prefer the devil we know to the one we do not. It is indeed difficult to know what a Labour Government would, in fact, be, far less what it would do; and therefore I am at best prepared to keep an open mind. But we have learned with great pleasure of their sudden conversion to the principles of electoral reform, and in that direction it might be that possibly they will have the invaluable assistance of the Liberal Party.
While we, therefore, feel unable to vote for this Motion, I must confess it would be a very hardy act to express complete confidence in the handling of the business of the House by the Government. I cannot speak as an expert. I am one of the newest boys in this House, but to my mind when there is a Bill like the Transport Bill, which personally I support in its broad outline, but which is widely criticised not only by Labour papers but by Conservative and independent papers, to introduce a Guillotine Motion merely on the ground that it is going to be opposed seems to my simple mind to be unjustified, at least on Liberal principles.
Then we know that the Government were caught out in the small hours of one morning. It may very well be that that is like whipping off the bails when the batsman has backed up too far. But it would seem to me that to impose collective punishment on the House of Commons for an omission by the Government, which the Prime Minister now admits was an omission, and to force Members to sit up all night, was unjust. When the Prime Minister comes here and tells us that far more time has been spent in this Parliament than in previous Parliaments in discussing various routine Measures, I reflect again, speaking with very little experience, that a very great deal of good can come from the consideration of these routine Measures.
I take no credit for it, but the Army Act is to be gone through for the first time for many years. I do not know what 1866 the motives were of those who investigated the matter, but whatever the motives the results may be wholly to the good. The Expiring Laws Continuance Bill certainly needed close consideration, and there are other Measures which Parliament can consider with advantage.
I cannot help thinking that the first step before we have any inquiries or select committees is to re-establish as much good will as we can. Personally, I think there is a wide measure of desire for it, and this debate may well act as a thunderstorm and clear the air.
If I may refer without impertinence to the Leader of the House, I would say that he was an extremely efficient poacher when in Opposition. No one was more artful at pursuing rabbits than he, and I speak as a rabbit. Now he is the gamekeeper. What I wonder is whether it is a gamekeeper that is really needed at the moment, and whether his very efficiency and expertness in Opposition have not perhaps led him to suspect the motives of an Opposition as he knows so well what the motives in an Opposition mean. I say it in all humility that it seems to me that good will could be established, and that is the first preliminary to the many necessary reforms which in later days it may be essential to consider for the conduct of business.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)
This debate has twisted in one particular. As one who has been a Member of the House for quite a number of years, I have known many Motions of censure moved at different times almost entirely upon great issues, but I have never seen a Motion so trivial in form and so devoid of substance as that moved tonight. That has been borne out by the fact that the many speeches that have been made had nothing to do with the Motion at all, but have turned on the question of how to improve our Parliamentary procedure.
In the short period which I have to speak, I propose to be controversial on the terms of the Motion itself. We all know that this stems from what happened on the night when the House was counted out. I should be the last to say that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has not a perfect constitutional right to call a count if he so desires. I would also agree that technically it is 1867 the duty of the Government of the day to keep a House.
The Government had two reasons to suppose that a count would be unlikely. The first was that never in the history of Parliament on a two-day debate on a Bill bitterly opposed by the Opposition has any Opposition ever called a count. They have never tried to count out a Bill on which they desired to speak.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
May I remind the hon. Gentleman of the Motion of censure debate in July, 1942, when a count took place? That was not called by the people supporting the Motion.
§ Mr. Raikes
No, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember that there was an unlimited suspension and that the count was at three o'clock in the morning. There was in fact no extension of time for the first day of the debate on the Iron and Steel Bill.
The second reason is a far stronger one which has not been referred to tonight. No one who heard the Opposition a few months ago thundering their denunciation of this Bill would have imagined that they would have deliberately curtailed a debate upon it. When the hon. Member for Dudley had his brainwave or his brainstorm, whichever one cares to call it, and called a count, he helped the Government considerably. By shortening that discussion the hon. Member made it plain throughout the country that all these cries about the anger of the nation against this Bill are as synthetic and "phoney" as the Motion before us today. I am delighted that he took that attitude and that he was able to clarify the position.
We pass to the second day. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House acted with a propriety which I do not think anyone can criticise. Although Mr. Speaker made it plain that there was no complete precedent, the Leader of the House deliberately did not put forward the Motion to go back to the debate on the Bill on the same day. The only precedents arose from 1890 and 1912, and if he had acted on the precedent of 1912 my right hon. Friend would at once have moved the adjournment of the House.
1868 But if my right hon. Friend had done that, those Prayers would never have been discussed. They were Opposition Prayers which hon. Gentleman opposite desired to discuss and my right hon. Friend was right to give opportunity for discussion. He has never had one word of thanks for a gesture which showed greater generosity than the gesture of hon. Gentlemen opposite, which was to cancel 82 pairs between Members of Parliament made under the normal contract between Private Members.
Then we come to the third day when, as a result of the alteration of business, we sat all through the night. It is uncomfortable to sit all night. I do not think that any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite has done the Leader of the House the credit of pointing out that on these Emergency Powers in the year 1952 we had fully two days' discussion, whereas last year and the previous year we had only one day under the late Government.
The fact that we had a late night had one advantage for those who wanted further discussion. It was that, instead of a normal debate from about 4 o'clock to 10 o'clock, which is six hours, we had nine and a half hours in the course of that evening. The most astounding thing of all, however, was the outburst by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) next morning. The hon. and learned Member, as both he and the House will recollect, protested bitterly at 8 o'clock on Friday morning against the conduct of the Government, and then walked out of the House.
Who is he to object to talking late at night? We know very well that the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends, the "midnight minstrels," are always at their brightest after midnight, and the House is well accustomed to these tuneless melodies with which they sometimes try to entertain us. Why should he complain? The only reason that I can think of is that, during that night, in which indeed there was a good discussion on Emergency Powers, the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch and his friends, who generally take up all the night watches, were unable to do that, but had their pitch queered by other people.
We covered the business, and we gave more time to that business than had been given either in the previous year or the year before, and we also honoured our 1869 position in regard to the Prayers. We did our utmost to facilitate business, and now, what is the complaint? It is incompetence. If incompetence is the complaint, I would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who are they to talk of incompetence, when the Opposition, night after night, are voted down by a Government majority of double or more than double the nominal strength?
I suggest that the party opposite should think again. They criticise my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip, but, in fact, the Patronage Secretary has been getting an inferiority complex upon the other side. I am going to add this. It was a sign of fear on the part of the party opposite that, after being voted down by ever-increasing majorities, on Tuesday night they did not even dare to vote at all. In confidence, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who is a very vigorous and very powerful debater, that, instead of struggling to maintain this futile and miserable Motion, he should instead move a Motion of censure upon his own party for their failure to keep up their numbers in the Division Lobby, particularly after 10.30 p.m. If he did that, something interesting might be learned.
Although I think—and these are my final words—[HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."]—I can add another two or three minutes. [Interruption.] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know that I do not mind noise, and that I do not lose my temper. Indeed, why should I? What I was going to say was that it might be advisable for the right hon. Gentleman to try to find out why it is that, at a time when he is accusing this Government of incompetence, incompetence is growing in the Lobbies on the other side.
I think I am giving what I believe to be the answer. It was said by the Duke of Wellington long years ago—[Interruption.] After all, hon. Members opposite have spent most of their time delving into the past; I have only gone there once. Like most of my party, I look to the future; I am not wandering in a wilderness of decayed Fabianism. What the Duke of Wellington said was:You never get bad troops, only bad officers.I think that these squalid squabbles at the top of the Socialist Party are whittling away their party at the bottom, and any 1870 Motion which they debate or speak for today will be regarded by the country as springing from their failure, their weakness and their decrepitude.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
There have been one or two speeches in the course of this debate which I thought were rather ominous. Their authors spoke as if at the present time we are witnessing the decline of Parliamentary institutions, as if all the difficulties into which we have got at the present time are due to some defects in the Parliamentary system.
I think that is a very dangerous line to take. It is very dangerous to attribute to Parliament what are really the shortcomings of parties. There is nothing at all in our Constitution which is so rigid and so inflexible that it cannot be adapted to any set of circumstances. In fact, it has always been held to be one of the glories of the British Constitution, and especially of the Parliamentary system, that we can at any time bend it, adjust it, arrange it, reform it and adapt it to national needs.
But, of course, that also has its great dangers, because it means that we cannot be protected by a written Constitution, so that at any time a majority in the House of Commons can, if it wishes, not merely adjust the Constitution to the needs of the circumstances, but can distort the Constitution according to its own wishes. Therefore, I think it would be a very great mistake for us to have it go out from this House this evening to all the world that we are having an examination of the defects of the Parliamentary system. What we are having at the present time is an examination of the deficiencies of the way in which that Constitution is being manipulated by the Government.
It is perfectly true that the Motion of censure that we have put down is a most unusual one. Of course it is, and the Prime Minister drew attention to its unusual character, because it is not often that an Opposition complains about the incompetence of Ministers. On the contrary, we rejoice at it. What we are complaining about is that they visit the results of their incompetence upon the House as a whole.
Perhaps before we go much further, and as the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is now in his place, I ought to give him a little Parliamentary arithmetic, because I thought that he 1871 claimed a degree of Parliamentary heroism to which he is not entitled. He spoke this afternoon of having only a 16 majority. My hon. Friends have given me the break-down—I hope that is not too ominous an expression—of the membership of the House of Commons among the different parties. The Labour Party has 295 Members. There are three Irish Nationalists who do not always pay us the honour of attending, so we cannot always rely upon them, although when they are here they usually have the good sense to vote with us.
Then there are 300 Conservatives, and there is that peculiar body, accepting the Conservative Whip, called Liberal-Nationalists. Then, of course, there are the Liberals, but we cannot always rely upon their support. In fact I have been informed that they have voted for the Government since the beginning of this Parliament on 88 per cent. of the occasions and on 12 per cent. for us. I hope that those percentages will be noted by the country. Although they sit on the fence quite a good deal, they have also fallen down almost regularly on one side. This gives the Government in all a regular majority of 29. So the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is not quite as heroic as he thought he was; and on several occasions we have reduced that majority to 11 and eight, so the record is not bad.
Now, it is perfectly correct that this Motion falls into two parts—the one which refers to the way in which the Patronage Secretary and the Leader of the House have been behaving, and the second part which deals with general policy. No one in this House, especially one who has been here as long as I have been, will complain about the use of the Guillotine on certain occasions. I have voted for it, although I must take pride in the fact that, though having had a large number of Bills to manage through the House, I have never had to resort to the Guillotine myself; but that is due to my non-controversial disposition. Other Ministers are not so happy and so they have to have the Guillotine.
The argument is not about whether the House should have a Guillotine at all. The argument is as to whether the Guillotine should be regarded as a normal piece of Parliamentary procedure. 1872 What frightens us, and not only what frightens us on this side of the House but secretly frightens hon. Members opposite and certainly has frightened public commentators outside the House, is the readiness, indeed the frivolity, with which this Government have resorted to it.
I cannot do any other than call in aid a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister which he made on the India Bill when, I regret to say, he was the leader of a dissident group inside the Conservative Party. I am bound to say that that was not so much dissolved as suffered a sea change. He said:Surely it would be a very great credit to the House and to the Government, and especially to my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, it a Bill of this extraordinary size and intricacy were to pass through Parliament, when feelings run so high about it, without there being the necessity of any formal Guillotine Resolution or without the necessity even of applying the Closure at any point. That I believe, is not beyond our power to achieve, and if so, it will greatly enhance the procedure of this House and get us back to the period before our procedure was mutilated during the latter part of the nineteenth century."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1935; Vol. 297, c. 1640.]He goes on to argue with his usual eloquence, and with a much more felicitous collection of adjectives than he has shown recently, how, in fact, it is only possible to bring out the merits of a Measure if there is free debate. Indeed, I myself—perhaps it is because of my Welsh disposition—always feel that we have not yet been able to dispense with the market place in searching out each other's minds. It is the merit of discussion in this House, conducted usually in conversational tones, that we have sufficient time to examine Measures, and the debate quite often discloses unforeseen weaknesses.
Indeed, having been responsible for a large number of Bills, I know as well as anybody here that civil servants make great mistakes in framing their Measures, and quite often Parliament discovers them, but can only discover them if there is proper debate. Therefore, I earnestly hope that hon. Members will not consider that the discussions that take place in this House are only discussions destined to make things awkward for the Government. They are usually discussions that are designed for the purpose of eliciting the actual merits of the controversy and the merits of the Measure.
1873 That is one of the serious objections to the Guillotine. When the Leader of the House, a right hon. Gentleman with great Parliamentary experience, says to the House that he proposes to have a Guillotine just because the Opposition intend to oppose a Measure, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister hints, as he did today about the Steel Bill—before we have hardly started to discuss it—that we are going to have a time-table about that, the right hon. Gentleman is not only going back upon his own great past, but is doing very great damage to Parliamentary institutions. We believe on this side of the House in the eminence of Parliamentary democracy. [Interruption.] I do not know what hon. Members opposite mean by that, but I should think that I have been for 23 years one of the stoutest defenders of the procedure of this House, and I believe that modern civilisation can solve its problems better by counting heads than by breaking them. That is only if we preserve in all sanctity the institution that we are entrusted with here.
It seems to me that on general grounds alone, the Government ought to reconsider the reckless way in which they introduce time-tables for Bills that have hardly started their course. Surely the right thing to do is to test out the temper of the House first of all, and if subsequently a Bill is too slow in passing, then the Government have a case to introduce the Guillotine, but they have no case to introduce it before first of all they have tested the reaction of the House to the Measure. I think that would be accepted as a reasonable statement of the case.
I said earlier that we were concerned about the behaviour of the Patronage Secretary and the Leader of the House. My right hon. Friend called attention to it but, the Prime Minister having misstated the facts, it is necessary to recount them. In the first place, what is the use of working out averages, as to how much time in the last four or five years the House has spent in considering the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill? What have averages to do with this? This Bill this year was not the same Bill as in previous years. The Local Authority Loans Act had been dropped out of it and there was a separate Bill for that brought in in the wrong order.
There was a long discussion in the House, when my hon. Friends were asking 1874 why the Public Works Loans Bill had been introduced before the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, because in all past years the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill was introduced first. No one could give the answer, and the answer has not been given up till now. Surely, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman ought to ask himself why it is that his colleagues are serving him so badly. Perhaps he would be good enough to tell the House confidentially—having acquired a very inflammable vocabulary in the course of the last few days—what language he used to the Patronage Secretary.
§ Mr. Bevan
Perhaps we shall have to include the right hon. Gentleman in our Motion of no confidence and incompetence. What happened? First, it is necessary to remember that Ministers have always been exceedingly careful as to what they put in Schedules to Bills. There always has been an argument with Parliamentary draftsmen, and there has always been an argument in the House, that not too much should go into the Schedule of a Bill. I say "a Bill" but the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill consists of nothing but the Schedule.
I want to ask the Patronage Secretary this question, and I hope he can give the House a candid reply: When he moved, "That the Question be now put" on Part II of the Schedule to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, did he think he was putting the Closure in the ordinary way or did he know that he was actually compelling Parliament at that moment to pass into law four Acts without any discussion at all?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn)
The whole discussion had taken a very long time—unnecessarily long. I am quite aware that certain inconveniences were caused to those who had later Amendments; but that is surely a matter for the Opposition to arrange among themselves. There was sufficient time, in that the whole thing had taken 13½ hours.
I did in fact consult the Secretary of State for Scotland because, to be quite frank, I had intended to claim the Schedule before the Scottish Amendments were moved, but having had a consultation with him we agreed that it would be 1875 right to take the Scottish Amendments and allow some discussion upon them, which I think meant another three hours, while 250 of our Members were sitting up here and 30 of the Opposition. I should not have minded a bit if the right hon. Gentleman's party had ever meant to vote, but they did not mean to vote. They were not serious.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would remind the House that no effective debate can be carried on if it is interrupted by a series of noisy exchanges from one side of the House to the other.
§ Mr. Bevan
I have asked for it and I am giving it back. I am asking the Patronage Secretary what he means by his statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where were you?"] Does he mean by that statement that if Divisions are not forced by the Opposition, discussion must be curtailed? That is what the right hon. Gentleman said. He said "It is obvious that the Opposition had no intention of dividing." [HON. MEMBERS: "They did not divide."] If hon. Members will listen for a moment, I will remind them that these are not Amendments in the ordinary way of amending a Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
If the hon. Member will listen, he will be less ignorant than he is now. These so-called Amendments are Amendments to leave out an Act from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and they are moved in order that the contents of the Act may be discussed. Indeed, if part of the Schedule is reached and the Closure is put on the Motion to leave out that Act, after a reasonable period of time, that is reasonable, but to move the Closure on the Schedule as a whole is unprecedented in the whole history of Parliament.
§ Mr. Assheton rose—
§ Mr. Bevan
Mr. Speaker, I am bound to tell you, in all courtesy, that I do not propose to sit down at half-past nine unless I get some courtesy from hon. Members.
As I was saying, it was in those circumstances that we had to discuss what to do. I cannot go into more detail about that now; there is a Motion on the Order Paper about the Chairman of Ways and Means, and in a debate upon that we can discuss this matter in greater detail. I still say, after 23 years' experience of the House of Commons, that the use of the Closure in this way was an outrage against Parliamentary procedure.
§ Mr. Assheton
May I be allowed to thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way? As he was not here on that occasion and I was, may I remind him that the Closure was agreed by the House?
§ Mr. Bevan
That is no reply at all. That is not an answer at all in the circumstances. The Patronage Secretary has already pointed out that there was an overwhelming Government majority in the House at the time, and, therefore, no Division took place. What we object to is the fact that the Patronage Secretary moved the Closure. We shall discuss that at far greater length on Monday.
§ Mr. Buchan-Hepburn
If it was a matter of such vital importance that a Motion had to be put down about it, was it not sufficiently important to vote against?
§ Mr. Bevan
The indictment lies against the right hon. Gentleman at that moment in invoking the authority of the Chair. Indeed, if I may quote from a speech of my own, I said last year:It is not merely a question of the constitutional procedure of the House of Commons. It is a fact—and we must face this fact—as my hon. and learned Friend has pointed out, that the Chairmen of Committees will find 1877 themselves in increasingly embarrassing situations, having to accept closures on discussions in Committee when quite often large numbers of hon. Members have not been able to speak. In fact, it has become so serious that it is almost as difficult to be heard in Committee now as in the House itself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1952; Vol. 498, c. 2785–6.]Then I went on to say—and this is the point—that by invoking this procedure, collisions are now beginning to occur between the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Members themselves, and it is the duty of the Government to get their business through the House of Commons without so distorting the procedure as to make it necessary for us to attempt to correct the behaviour of the Chairman by Motion.
This Motion of censure has a second leg. It refers not only to the way in which the Patronage Secretary and Leader of the House have been behaving, but also to the fact that the Government are using the time of the House for irrelevant Measures. The right hon. Gentleman said today that the Transport Bill and the Iron and Steel Bill are brought forward by the Government because he and his followers consider that they are necessary in the national interest. Why have we not had them before? Do they mean to tell me that the Members of the Government are so negligent of the national interest that they have withheld the benefit of those Measures from the country for over a year? Why? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why it is, if these are necessary in the national interest, we have not had them before? We have not had them yet, but why have we not had them before?
The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman is in a very embarrassed situation. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), in a most interesting speech tonight, pointed out that we had got very serious difficulties. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman is beginning to remind me more and more of Mr. Stanley Baldwin in his most decadent days. In 1931 to 1935, 1936 and 1937 we also had the situation about which the party opposite now boasts. We had the situation in which we had a favourable overseas balance of payments. We had it then, and stagnant production. We are having it now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Having what?"] Stagnant production.
1878 At the present time there is a fall in production taking place in every industry except those which are nationalised industries. The only industries in Great Britain at the moment where there is rising production is in the nationalised industries. [HON. MEMBERS: "Housing."] If hon. Members will permit me, I will deal with that. This, of course, is the only small figleaf with which hon. Gentlement opposite are covering their nakedness.
In fact, the Minister of Housing and Local Government is desperately hoping that this year he will be able to provide 50,000 fewer homes than we built in 1948, and he is regarded as the most successful Minister, the Minister about whom they boast most; he forms the basis of their perorations in the country. He is the Minister who in 1952, seven years after the war, will build 50,000 fewer houses than we built in 1948.
We would like the Government to be able to bring before the House of Commons Measures which do relate to national needs. Everybody knows that the situation in which the country finds itself is pretty grim. The situation in the overseas balance of payments is favourable because imports have fallen; and imports have fallen this year because production has not risen this year. Hon. Members opposite really must face these facts. There is short time in many industries, overtime is down in many industries, and unemployment has grown in some industries. This is the picture hon. Members must face.
It is always possible to have a favourable balance of payments position if production is cut down so that the country does not have to import raw materials, and all the Government have done is to achieve financial solvency at the expense of producing industrial stagnation. [Interruption.] It is no good hon. Gentlemen opposite muttering in that way, because they know that their business friends are telling them the same thing in the country outside. We are very anxious to see the Government bring forward proposals to deal with this problem. What we want today is to get them out as quickly as possible, because we have ideas about how to deal with the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman prides himself on the fact that he has got his followers to follow him in a docile fashion 1879 in the Lobby—what he describes in his own speech, from which I have just quoted, as "a moribund majority"—
§ Mr. Bevan
A moribund majority, yes. It is not enough for the right hon. Gentleman to satisfy himself by saying that he thinks the country is more stoutly behind him than it was a year ago. The country was stoutly behind Mr. Stanley Baldwin when the country was decaying, when its basic industries were languishing and when we had two million unemployed. All that the right hon. Gentleman has done at the end of his great career is to repeat today the achievements of the man whom he bitterly attacked before the war. In fact, the apotheosis of Winston Churchill is to be like Stanley Baldwin.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)
In rising to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in what I should not like to call exactly a maiden speech, but, anyhow, a return to that Front Bench, my first words, I think, must be gratification that the rules of debate differ very widely from the laws of cricket. In the latter game, the 12th man is never put on to bowl. Speaking from the point of view of the batting side however, there was nothing in the right hon. Gentleman's speech which leads me to raise any objection to the course which has been adopted. I am not quite clear at the end of it what exactly he proved, but the right hon. Gentleman certainly spoke with his usual charm and urbanity and in the best spirit of co-operation.
This is a Motion of censure, and I cannot imagine any Motion of censure which has ever arisen out of such a very small origin. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It has been admitted all through the speeches that what has really caused this upsurge of feeling were the incidents—[HON. MEMBERS: "It was you."] Of course, it is we who are being censured, and I hope, therefore, that the reply might be listened to. [Interruption.]
The origins of this Motion of censure were the events of the other night when the House was counted out. I must say that at that time I thought it was a back bench manoeuvre originating with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). 1880 Has it now got the blessing of the official Opposition? Well, it does not seem so from the outstanding silence, and I am not surprised, because in point of fact it was a great breach of the conventions of this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not say that on my own authority, but take it from two organs of opinion which are not friendly to this Government as a general rule.It is a breach of convention to spoil a Second Reading debate on an important Bill.said the "Manchester Guardian."It is contrary to the conventions for the Opposition to exercise its right"—and no one is questioning that—[Interruption.]—I am talking about conventions, and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has no inhibitions about keeping silent—to have the House counted out during the inevitable quiet stage in the debate of a major Bill.That is what the "Economist" said about it. In spite of all this, the Government were able to achieve the two objectives they always set themselves in every week that passes. The first is to get the Government business which has been announced and which, as a result of the preliminary talks before the business statement on Thursday, is agreed to be acceptable, within, of course, the limits of opposition to the other side. And the second objective is to see that private Members' time in any week when there is private Members' time is reached. We did that, and when I am told that our action is unfair, as in the words of the Motion, I must remind the House that after all it was we who introduced full private Members' time and were particularly anxious to see that it was safeguarded last Friday in view of the important Bill to be debated. I say that, in spite of the incident which occurred, we achieved the two normal objectives of the week.
But, of course, as far as the Opposition were concerned, that was very different, because what they did was to expose to public gaze the fact that, although they claimed that we were not giving enough time to the de-nationalisation Measures, the Labour Party were not ready to use all the time we had given them, and the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) did not make his speech that night owing to the action of the hon. Member for Dudley. What of the pretence that the country is deeply stirred against the 1881 Iron and Steel Bill when there are only four Labour Members left to carry on the debate? Where is the call to battle of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss)? I know what it was; it was the hon. Member for Dudley who was calling to retreat that night.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham) rose—
§ Mr. Jack Jones
On a point of order. On the conduct of business in this House, is it not usual when an hon. Member is mentioned that he should be shown the common courtesy and allowed to reply?
§ Mr. Jones
The right hon. Gentleman made the statement that the Labour Party were not prepared to fill in the time on the steel nationalisation proposals. May I inform the right hon. Gentleman that because of the failure of the Government to keep a House, two ex-Ministers, already briefed and prepared to speak, were not allowed to speak at all?
§ Mr. Crookshank
That reply, if I may say so, most completely proves my point.
There was an occasion in 1950 when the then Government was defeated in a debate on the Adjournment. The time was 10 o'clock; it was not an extraordinary time, but they were defeated on a night when they apparently had not expected a Division. The then Prime Minister said in this Housethe position of the Opposition"—that is we who were on the other side of the House at that time—is that at any time they can direct an attack.The parallel apparently is that they can also direct a withdrawal.I quite agree that the Government forces ought to have been at full strength—I regret that they were not—and the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, was able to score a success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 556–7.]I think those are very nearly the words which my right hon. Friend also used 1882 this afternoon when he expressed his regret that this unfortunate incident should have occurred.
But this time it was not the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition who was directing any attacks or withdrawals—he was not here; it was the hon. Member for Dudley who was doing it. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman and all his friends approve of what was done. I do know from conversations I have had that it was not universally supported. At all events we certainly did not on that occasion move a Motion of censure because we had defeated the Government, though had we had as many splits in our party then perhaps we would have done so.
The fact of the matter is that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are really suffering from jealousy. They are very jealous of the long list of Divisions which my right hon. Friend instanced this afternoon showing how the majorities in the Division Lobby have been so much higher than what is called the paper majority. And indeed they have reason to be, because the "New Statesman"—that at any rate is not a Conservative newspaper—was good enough, in June, to comment upon the success and the competence of my right hon. Friend, when they said:Now that the positions are reversed"—that is that we are on this side of the House—he has found little difficulty in beating oft the haphazard assaults of his opposite number, the Santa Claus-like Mr. Whiteley.The approach of Christmas makes that quotation very suitable.
But that was not the only tribute—I have here the "Tribune"—which we got at that time. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, I think, had something to do with the "Tribune" then—the newspaper—or perhaps it was the female line. At all events the Parliamentary correspondent of the "Tribune," which certainly is not a pro-Government paper—I am not sure that it is always a pro-Labour Party paper—was commenting on the Finance Bill and started off by throwing brickbats. I regret to say that one of the bigger brickbats fell on the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer who now sits on the Front bench opposite. Then the writer came to "medals,":Now for some medals. The first one must go to the Tory Whips.
§ Mr. Crookshank
Oh, yes, this year, on 27th June, after the Budget. It went on:Apart from the usual board meetings, cocktail parties, etc., there's been Ascot. Yet the Tory majorities, except twice, in an all-night sitting, have been well maintained. The fact is that those mild-mannered men who work in the Tory Whips' office have established a reign of terror of which Robespierre would be envious.I think perhaps jealousy may be part of the answer, unless there is a Robespierre over there hiding, blushing and unseen. I really do not know. Obviously it is true that any Opposition can hold up Government business almost indefinitely if so minded, owing to all the amount of business which has to be transacted. I think it is probably common ground, and so the Government have been furnished with certain weapons by Standing Orders. Otherwise, the Government would never get through its business.
My attention has been called to one matter in connection with this subject. I think I must ask the indulgence of the House to read one sentence. It is of enormous length, but it was Mr. Asquith speaking. This is what he was saying on this very subject of the House taking certain precautions, because the Government had to use the modern machine with great reluctance and even with repugnance, but it was necessary if they were to get their business through. He went on to say:I do not exaggerate when I say that if you were to sit continuously during the whole 12 months of the year, and worked through them with unremitting ardour and assiduity, you would find at the end not only that there were still large arrears of legislation which you have not even attempted to overtake, not only in all the sums raised by taxation whose appropriation had never even been discussed, but that there were vast areas of the Empire—I do not now speak of the Self-governing Dominions—for which we are still directly responsible as trustees, to whose concerns we had not been able to afford so much as one single night."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1912; Vol. 34, c. 1405.]Forty years have passed since that day.
§ Mr. Crookshank
The language is beautiful, but nowadays we do get through it a little shorter. I am reminded of another one because of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's interjection. We have to some extent streamlined both our Parliamentary business and our language. 1884 Questions which nowadays would be answered by the Prime Minister with "No, Sir" because that would be a sufficient reply, were answered by Mr. Gladstone at greater length. Someone once asked him if he was going to make a statement on Russia, and he said:I may answer the question by saying that I have not the least reason to suppose that it would be in the least degree advantageous to the public service that we should make any such statement at any time whatever.The Opposition can hold up Government business, but there are certain conventions which are observed, and the Leader of the House acts in a dual capacity. It is a comparatively modern post, but as well as acting as Leader of the House he must always remember that he is also a Queen's Minister. He has got to see that the Queen's business is done in this House. He has also a certain responsibility to see that in so far as it can be arranged the convenience of everyone is consulted. That has been done. He has got to balance the ever-increasing demand for general debates with the necessity for legislation.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I am getting to that. I must make my speech in my own way.
This can only be done if certain conventions are observed. Government business during this Session has, in fact, gone forward much slower than the national need demands. If the fault does not lie with the Opposition, it lies with the opposition within the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) the other day produced "The Times" and quoted it against me during the debate on the Motion for the Guillotine. "The Times" of that day also published this sentence—
§ Mr. Crookshank
The right hon. Gentleman selected his quotation, but this sentence was in the same article. This it what it said:The Government may fairly claim that the Opposition during the early days of this session 1885 has given indication that it is determined on obstructing the two major measures of denationalisation.I might add that I made it quite clear that I took the same view.
What does this Motion of censure mean so far as the responsible leaders of the Opposition are concerned? Does it mean now that instead of going off, as they are quite entitled to do as senior Members of this House, comparatively early to bed, they come out into the open to support the "late night final" activities of those who might be called partisans in a guerilla warfare? We made no attempt whatever when we were in Opposition ever to obstruct Government business. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am choosing my words. I said quite clearly that we did not in any way obstruct Government business. [Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, we have been attacked, and I in particular. I hope that I shall be allowed to reply.
I was saying that Government business was never obstructed by the official Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Prayers?"] Prayers are not Government business; but granted for the sake of argument that that counts as obstruction, what happened? A Motion appeared on the Order Paper saying that we were bringing the Mother of Parliament into international disrepute. What do they say now?
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Why does the right hon. Gentleman say that this was confined to trouble about Orders? Does not he remember the disgraceful business about the Gas Bill, and was not there trouble during the early stages of the Transport Bill?
§ Mr. Crookshank
What we are discussing is business on the Floor of the House. I must remind the House once again of the situation. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that when he was a young Member of the House he remembered a lot of all-night Sittings on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. As we grow older our memory fades.
In 1922 the time spent on the corresponding Bill was under 3 hours; in 1923, it was 7½ hours; 1924, 2½ hours; 1925, under 4 hours; and 1926, 4 hours. Was that all night? Of course not. This time we have had the House kept up all night on the Home Guard Bill; the Army and 1886 Air Force Bill on which we spent 17½ hours this year compared with 2 hours last year, and the Visiting Forces Bill on which we spent 18½ hours. That was a legacy from the Opposition. We did not originate that Bill.
All this is Government business. On the Public Works Loan Bill 1½ hours was spent two years ago, and 10 this year. On the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill 3 hours were spent last year and 13½ this year, and Conservative Members spoke for only 20 minutes during that debate. The night before last the Committee of the whole House proceeded seven times to a Division and the Opposition put in no tellers. They wasted a quarter of an hour by that manoeuvre, and they are now trying to make out that the Motion to claim the Schedule was a Parliamentary outrage.
They never even voted on it because they had only 25 people here. That is why. They were not prepared to show their nakedness. If it was a real constitutional outrage, it was better for 25 people to show that 275 Labour Members had gone away than not to vote at all. I would like to know where the Opposition stand. Do they believe, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale said last year, that because there is a small majority there should be no contentious legislation?
§ Mr. Crookshank
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South took exactly the contrary view when this issue was raised two years ago. This matter came up on 19th September, 1950, when the then Government got the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill by six—that was a small enough majority. This question was raised then.
What he said was that the Leader of the Opposition was really asking for the Opposition to have a right of veto over the Government's legislative programme, which is monstrous and constitutionally bad, and he added:This is a new attempt at a veto.… What utter revolutionary unconstitutional nonsense this is."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1734.]
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I will not keep the House a minute. This Bill had been passed in the previous Parliament. This was merely a consequential stage. The point I was arguing—[Interruption.] If I 1887 am interrupted, I shall delay the right hon. Gentleman, and that I do not wish to do. The point I was arguing was that by saying that we had no right to bring forward this consequential stage, they were trying to veto what the previous Parliament had done.
§ Mr. Crookshank
The two right hon. Gentlemen can reconcile their own differences between them. They have not found it very easy so far; perhaps they will do better in the future.
A great deal has been said during the debate about the lack of co-operation; there is no desire that there should be any lack of co-operation. Indeed, we are always discussing this matter through the usual channels, but we have found to our sorry cost that many arrangements which have been honourably made have not always been kept, and that makes it difficult. Even the right hon. Gentleman himself the other night came to an agreement that we should adjourn, and the Adjournment was delayed by something like half an hour because hon. Gentlemen behind him would go on speaking, although he and I had agreed that we should adjourn.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
On a point of order. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman opposite to say that he will limit the rights of back benchers, of
§ whatever party, because an arrangement has been made between the Front Benches?
§ Mr. Speaker
That really is not a point of order. What was said was that arrangements are made between the two Front Benches and that they are not always observed. There is nothing out of order in that.
§ Mr. Crookshank
All that was in our minds at the moment was to adjourn the debate, not to keep anybody out. They would naturally have their opportunity when it was resumed.
I am afraid that, with all these interruptions, I have been prevented from dealing with the second part of this Motion, which merely proves and accentuates what I said at the time—that the motive behind it is largely jealousy. The Opposition are jealous of our success, and are not yet, in fact, reconciled to the fact that they lost the last Election. They have not succeeded in the by-election contests which have taken place, and, because of the reasons which I have not been able to put forward, but certainly for those which I have, I ask the House to repudiate this Motion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 280; Noes, 304.1891
|Division No. 32.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Burton, Miss F. E.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)|
|Adams, Richard||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Albu A. H.||Callaghan, L. J.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Carmichael, J.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Champion, A. J.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Chapman, W. D.||Ewart, R.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Clunie, J.||Field, W. J.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Coldrick, W.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Baird, J.||Collick, P. H.||Finch, H. J.|
|Balfour, A.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Cove, W. G.||Follick, M.|
|Bartley, P.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Foot, M. M.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Crosland, C. A. R.||Forman, J. C.|
|Bence, C. R.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Freeman, John (Watford)|
|Benson, G.||Daines, P.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Beswick, F.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Glanville, James|
|Blackburn, F.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Gooch, E. G.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)|
|Boardman, W.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Deer, G.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Delargy, H. J.||Grey, C. F.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Dodds, N. N.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Donnelly, D. L.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Burke, W. A.||Edelman, M.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Mellish, R. J.||Slater, J.|
|Hannan, W.||Messer, F.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hardy, E. A.||Mikardo, Ian||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Mitchison, G. R.||Snow, J. W.|
|Hastings, S.||Monslow, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moody, A. S.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Morley, R.||Steele, T.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, S.)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Mort, D. L.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Holman, P.||Moyle, A.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Mulley, F. W.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Houghton, Douglas||Murray, J. D.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Nally, W.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||O'Brien, T.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oldfield, W. H.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oliver, G. H.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Orbach, M.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oswald, T.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Padley, W. E.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paget, R. T.||Thornton, E. (Farnworth)|
|Janner, B.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Timmons, J.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Tomney, F.|
|Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Pannell, Charles||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Pargiter, G. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Parker, J.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Paton, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Peart, T. F.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Watkins, T. E.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Popplewell, E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Keenan, W.||Porter, G.||Weitzman, D.|
|Kenyon, C.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Proctor, W. T.||West, D. G.|
|Kinley, J.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Rankin, John||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Reeves, J.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Reid, William (Camlachie)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Lewis, Arthur||Rhodes, H.||Wigg, George|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Richards, R.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Logan, D. G.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Willey, F. T.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernavonshire)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|McInnes, J.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Ross, William||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|McLeavy, F.||Royle, C.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)||Wilson, Rt. Hon Harold (Huyton)|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Short, E. W.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Yates, V. F.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Younger, Rt. Hon K.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Bowdea and Mr. Pearson.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Butler, Rt. Hon R. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bennett, William (Woodside)||Campbell, Sir David|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Birch, Nigel||Carson, Hon. E.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bishop, F. P.||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Black, C. W.||Channon, H.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Boothby, R. J. G.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bossom, A. C.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cole, Norman|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Braine, B. R.||Colegate, W. A.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.|
|Barber, Anthony||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Barlow, Sir John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Brooman-White, R. C.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Bullard, D. G.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Crouch, R. F.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Raikes, H. V.|
|De la Bére, Sir Rupert||Kaberry, D.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Keeling, Sir Edward||Redmayne, M.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lambton, Viscount||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Donner, P. W.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Leather, E. H. C.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Drewe, C.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Thomas (Richmond)||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Russell, R. S.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lindsay, Martin||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Linstead, H. N.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Fell, A.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longden, Gilbert||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Low, A. R. W.||Shepherd, William|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter|
|Fort, R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Foster, John||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||McAdden, S. J.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||McCallum, Major D.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Speir, R. M.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Glyn, Sir Ralph||Maclean, Fitzroy||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Godber, J. B.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon Harold (Bromley)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gower, H. R.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Storey, S.|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marples, A. E.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Summers, G. S.|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maude, Angus||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maudling, R.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Teeling, W.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Mellor, Sir John||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Molson, A. H. E.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hay, John||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Tilney, John|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Heath Edward||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicholls, Harmar||Turton, R. H.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Nicholson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nutting, Anthony||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Oakshott, H. D.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Odey, G. W.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Horobin, I. M.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Osborne, C.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Partridge, E.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Wills, G.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||York, C.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Powell, J. Enoch||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and Mr. Butcher.|
Question put, and agreed to.