HC Deb 06 June 1940 vol 361 cc998-1000
Mr. Speaker

I should like to draw the special attention of Members to the letter issued to them in the names of the Prime Minister and Leader of the House, about the wording of the Questions on the Order Paper and the framing of Supplementary Questions. I feel sure that Members will respond to the appeal to exercise special care at the present time.

May I also remind Members that they are responsible for the persons to whom they give tickets in the Galleries of this House, and how important it is for them to remember that and to realise their personal responsibility in this matter?

Hitherto, members of the public waiting in St. Stephen's Entrance have been admitted to the Gallery after 4.15 p.m. when room permits. In future members of the public who desire a place in the Gallery will only be admitted on the production of a ticket signed by a Member.

Mr. Thorne

Would it not be possible, when Members' Gallery tickets are issued, for the Member in question to be responsible for signing the ticket in his own name, because there is a system operating by which a man may get into the Gallery with a ticket which is not signed by the Member? Should not the ticket be signed by the Member and handed to the person?

Mr. Speaker

I quite agree that the signature ought to be in the Member's own name.

Sir William Davison

Does the request that you have just made, Mr. Speaker, mean that the visitor should be personally known to the Member in question, or is it to be that he is resident at a particular house or place in his constituency and that he believes him to be a suitable person? It is very difficult for Members of large constituencies, although they have every reason to believe that a particular visitor may be all right, to know personally about him or her.

Mr. Speaker

If a Member has any doubts he must not make himself responsible for the visitor.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Is it intended to limit the number of tickets that a Member may sign?

Mr. Speaker

It depends upon the room that is available in the Gallery. Tickets are for admission to places after 4.15 p.m., and not places which are balloted for, in the Gallery.

Colonel Wedgwood

Are we not being over-careful of our own safety in this way? After all, the Public Gallery is for the public of the world to come and listen to what the House of Commons is doing, and are we justified in limiting these opportunities to a mere handful of people every day? What is there to be afraid of?

Mr. Cocks

May I ask whether you will consider giving instructions that people desiring to come into the public galleries should undergo some form of search?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not necessary, in order that the new system which you have indicated should work satisfactorily, that Members should not sign orders without putting on the name of the person who is to be admitted?

Mr. Speaker

A Member should only sign the ticket that bears the name of the person.

Sir H. Morris-Jones

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, with regard to Questions in this House, there is any intention whatever to curtail the rights and liberties of Members in asking Questions; and further, whether, if it were not for the privileges hitherto exercised by Members in this House in asking Questions we would still be jogging along under the old Administration, which would have meant that we would have lost the war?

Captain Strickland

Arising out of your appeal, Mr. Speaker, to Members of the House to use discretion in putting down Questions, may I ask whether it is not still possible to exercise some sort of censorship over Questions which are actually put down in this House? There are certain Questions that may not be asked in this House, and is it possible to extend the authority, so that where it is obviously against the interests of this country to ask a certain Question in this House a censorship can be exercised over it? A Question was asked to-day with reference to the manning of observation posts on church towers. It was stated in the last war that the Germans were justified in bombing our churches because they were used for such a purpose, and a Question put down to-day of that nature would be distinctly a bit of information for which the enemy would be very glad.

Mr. Speaker

I have dealt with that question several times and I should be loath to assume the responsibility myself. I still feel that the responsibility of Members will do much to achieve the desired result.