HC Deb 30 May 1921 vol 142 cc573-5
33. Mr. C. WHITE

asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that Members of Parliament voluntarily surrendered the privilege of franking letters when penny postage was established, and in view of the all-round increase in postal charges, he will reconsider the recommendation of the Select Committee to allow Members of Parliament a limited amount of free postage?


I am unable to accept the interpretation suggested in the first part of the question, and with regard to the last part I cannot add anything to the replies which have already been given on this subject.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the majority of letters which hon. Members receive are in connection with Government business and refer to the neglect of the Departments to deal with pensions and similar cases? Does he not think that a limited postal allowance would be advantageous?


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the Government have inquired from the principal railway companies if they would be willing to grant Members of Parliament passes between London and their constituencies either free or on greatly reduced terms; and, if not, will he cause such inquiries to be made, and inform this House of the result?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)

No, Sir. We have not made inquiries of this kind, and do not propose to do so. If it be desirable that Members should be relieved of these charges, it would not seem to me proper that Members should owe the relief to companies whose affairs are frequently the subject of Parliamentary discussion.


May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman, before making the announcement to the House relative to the granting of passes to Members, did not take the ordinary businesslike precaution of first ascertaining from the railway companies the most favourable terms on which passes could be obtained?


As regards the terms on which we should pay for the concession, if the concession be made, I consulted the Ministry of Transport, who had the arrangements in hand. I did not, acting on behalf of His Majesty's Government, think it proper to ask a favour from companies whose affairs are often the business of this House.


Is it not possible for the Government, which has the sending over the railways of very large quantities of Government material, to get from the railway companies similar privileges to those enjoyed by business firms up and down the country, by means of traders' tickets? Is it not within the Government's province to obtain similar concessions?


I do not think the two cases are analogous. I do not want to anticipate Wednesday's discussion, but it does seem to me that if it be in the public interest—and that is the only ground which would justify it—that Members should be paid travelling expenses, the relief should be given out of public funds. This House neither individually nor corporately ought to accept favours from any bodies whose affairs may be under discussion here.


Is it not the case that my question does not involve asking a favour, but is simply putting the Government in the same relationship with the railway companies as the trading firms of this country who send goods over the railways?


A trading firm, no doubt, if it has a certain volume of trade, and agrees to put that trade on with a particular company, may get certain concessions from that company. I do not think His Majesty's Government or this House should be put into the same position in relation to the railway companies.


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the Treasury will lay down rules as to the administration of the issue of free travelling tickets for Members; and, if not, by whom such rules will be laid down?


No, Sir. The rules as to the administration will be laid down solely through the House of Commons administrative offices.

Captain BENN

Was any Parliamentary sanction given before these tickets were issued?


That was explained in the statement made by me before the Whitsuntide Recess, which contains the answer to that question.

Captain BENN

Was the permission of the Committee on Supply obtained before this new service was introduced?


That is a question which should be put down.

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