HC Deb 25 November 1937 vol 329 cc1417-9
Brigadier-General Spears

I desire to raise a question of Privilege arising out of Question No. 29, which I put to the Home Secretary this afternoon. While the House pays willing tribute to the courtesy and efficiency of the police in the neighbourhood of the House of Commons, it is within my own personal knowledge that on several recent ceremonial occasions when certain streets which are means of access to this House were entirely forbidden to the public, the police at the points of diversion did nothing whatsoever to facilitate the access of Members to this House. They seemed to know little and care less about the Sessional Order. I respectfully beg to submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that you should ask the Commissioner of Police, when the streets are closed for ceremonial purposes, to ensure that access along those streets shall be given to Members of Parliament until the last possible moment, and that, when it is considered necessary to institute one-way streets, the police at the points of diversion should inform Members of the best means of reaching this House. What we are asking you, Sir, to do is to uphold a very ancient Privilege of this House, as your predecessors have done.

Mr. Thorne

Before you answer the hon. and gallant Member, Mr. Speaker, I should like to say that, so far as I am concerned, I absolutely object to any Members of Parliament having a Privilege on ceremonial occasions. I consider that they should make their way to this House in exactly the same manner in which I have to make my way here.

Sir S. Hoare

Before you give a Ruling on this question of Privilege, may I say that the police do already give exceptional treatment to Members of Parliament? They already leave open the streets until the last possible moment for the access of Members of Parliament, and I think the House will have heard, from the answer I gave this afternoon, that it is their desire in every way, both in the letter and in the spirit, to carry out the Sessional Order and to make it as easy as it can be made in the circumstances for Members of Parliament to get to the House conveniently.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I do not know whether you are aware, Mr. Speaker, that one of the difficulties is that the police on duty are frequently changed, and are not familiar with Members by sight, so that, unless one happens to be wearing a silk hat or carrying a despatch case with some monogram on it, one is not recognised.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not permitted to the police, in carrying out this very delicate duty, to have an appreciation of the Members who are important and whom it is desirable to get to the House, as apart from Members of very little importance? I know that I always get the very careful attention of the police.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that any question of Privilege arises. Since the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) appeared on the Paper, I have taken the opportunity of consulting the Rulings of some of my predecessors. I notice that one of them, Mr. Speaker Gully, said—and I agree with what he said—that great care should be taken that the Sessional Order should be duly enforced and that the access of Members to the House should be secured. I think I express the view of the House generally when I say that the Sessional Order is duly carried out, and that the police perform their duties to the satisfaction of Members. I note, however, that Mr. Speaker Gully, in his Ruling, used the words near the House. I think it has always been held that in the Sessional Order the words passages through the streets leading to this House be kept free and open refer to the neighbourhood of the House, and not to streets remote or at an indefinite distance from the House. Traffic has certainly not become easier, and such an interpretation of the Order would be impossible to carry out. I may add that, by arrangement with the Commissioner of Police, Members will be informed in future of any traffic diversions which are necessary on important ceremonial occasions and which might interfere with their access to the House during the Session.

Brigadier-General Spears

I thank you very much indeed, Mr. Speaker.