§ 9.56 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that provision should be made for transport for Members and officers of this House, and persons attending on the service thereof, when the House is adjourned at an hour when normal transport facilities are not available.I would say straight away that although this is a Government Motion, it has not been put before the House in any party spirit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If at the close of the Debate a Division is challenged, the Government Whips will not be asked to function. Hon. Members will be free to vote either for or against the proposal or to abstain if they think that course right.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The issue raised by the Motion is a domestic and not a political one. It affects all who are associated with the Palace of Westminster. In putting it forward, the Government deny in advance any suggestion that it is designed to assist primarily their own supporters. There was a time undoubtedly, when such a charge might have been uttered. When I first entered Parliament nearly 18 years ago it was hon. Members of my own party—the Labour Party—who had either to walk home or sleep in the chairs of the Library when the House sat, as it very often did, into the small hours of the morning. Times, however, have changed. As many hon. Members on this side of the House as in any other part of the House now 1895 run cars. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am delighted to receive that cheer, because it shows quite clearly that hon. Members of the party on this side of the House are not drawn from any one section but transcend all sectional interests. Wartime taxation, too, has been a great leveller. The burden of a taxi fare often repeated at two o'clock in the morning would not now be confined to any one party. Speaking, therefore, in support of the Motion, I hope I may claim that the issue is not a party one but a scheme designed to benefit all concerned, regardless of party. It seeks to assist hon. Members, officers of the House and staff in equal degree.
As the House is aware, the suggestion that special transport of some kind should be provided when the House sit late has been made on and off, over a long period. Some months ago, therefore, in order to test the extent to which such facilities would be used, a questionnaire was circulated to hon. Members. The replies to this show that some 300 Members of the House would welcome the introduction of a scheme, and, in addition, it was found that about 150 officers and others who work in and about the precincts would also find this scheme of service to them.
§ Mr. Hall
I cannot say that offhand, and I hope I said 300. It was 300 Members and 150 officers and servants, all of whom, roughly 450 in all, said that they would value such a service and would find it useful to them when they wanted to get home at night if the House sat beyond the normal time.
Now these figures demonstrated, so we thought, that there was considerable support for the project embodied in the Motion now before the House. Discussions were accordingly opened with the London Passenger Transport Board, as a result of which that body is prepared, when a late Sitting is in prospect, to make buses available for taking passengers from the precincts of the House by various routes to the periphery of London. What these routes should be—11 have been suggested —must depend on the need shown when and if the scheme comes into operation. Subject to this proviso the House will, I believe, be interested to know what are 1896 the routes at present proposed. They are as follow:
- Becontree, via Highbury, Leytonstone and Ilford.
- Enfield Town via Finsbury Park, Muswell Hill and Southgate.
- Highgate via Marble Arch, Baker Street and Camden Town.
- Queensbury Circle via Paddington, Golders Green and Hendon.
- Harrow-on-the-Hill via Hammersmith, Harlesden and Wembley.
- Sudbury Town via Hammersmith, Eating and Greenford.
- Isleworth via Wandsworth, Putney, Richmond and Twickenham.
- Kingston Station via Clapham, Wimbledon and Morden.
- North Cheam via Tooting Broadway, Wallington Station and Sutton.
- Purley Cross via Brixton, Streatham and Thornton Heath.
- Sidcup via New Cross, Blackheath and Plumstead.
§ Mr. Hall
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that the West of London is covered, but if it is not, we will see, if the scheme is accepted, that the West of London is not left out in the cold. It will be realised that these buses must follow the main routes, and that those using them may have to walk some distance from the nearest point to their homes, but the service will be of great assistance in getting them within walking: distance of home.
What I have already said about the service as a whole applies to particular routes, and it may be necessary not only to reduce their number, but also to alter them according to the use made of them. Hon. Members will naturally want to know something as to the possible costs of a scheme of this kind and how we propose to meet them. It is, unfortunately, difficult for me to be precise or to give the exact figures. The proposal is that on any day when there is any possibility of the House sitting beyond 10.30 p.m.. the London Passenger Transport Board depot should be warned in order that the crews of the necessary vehicles may stand by, even if the House rises before 11.30 p.m. The weekly charge in this event for a maximum of four nights in any one week would be £13 15s., that is for 11 crews if the 11 routes which are projected were used. It is 6s. 3d. multiplied by four by 11. That comes to a fixed charge of £13 15s. week by week.
§ Mr. Hall
No, £13 15s. for the 11 buses. It would be a standby charge. If the House sits on throughout the night, and the buses are still not called upon, and hon. Members can use the ordinary transport facilties, which would be available about 6 o'clock the next morning onwards, the maximum weekly charge on the same basis of 11 buses would be £110. The crews would have to be paid if they stood by after 11.30 at night for a full eight hour shift, and the eight hour shift for the crews of 11 buses works out at £110 per week. If the buses are called out, the total time of the staffs employed if it did not exceed eight hours on the same basis of 11 buses, would mean a net cost of £50 10s. per night or, in a week of four nights, £202. I have gone into this detail because I think the House is entitled to know what the projected scheme is and what cost is involved.
As my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said in reply to a supplementary question last Thursday, it is our view that Members of Parliament should pay a reasonable sum for these facilities. What this should be has yet to be determined, and the Government would welcome the views of hon. Members in all quarters of the House. The Government believe that hon. Members generally have no desire that they should be carried free at public expense, or even for an uneconomic fare. The routes, of course, vary in length, but approximate, on the average, to between 10 and 12 miles from the House. We therefore, suggest that the minimum fare should be 6d. for a distance of, say, three miles, and that longer distances should be charged for at increased rates according to the stage to which any hon. Member may go. It would mean that anyone going the full distance of the route would probably find he had to pay 1s., 1s. 6d., 2s. or more. But may I repeat that these things are approximations only, and would have to be worked out when we see how the scheme can be operated? It is further proposed, as the House knows, to make these services available to officers and staff of the House, to members of the Press Gallery, and indeed, I think I carry the House with me here, to any relatives or friends of Members who might be within the precincts when 1898 the House rises. [HON. MEMBERS: "No. Why?"] I will tell the House why. In my view there are two reasons for allowing this. One is that it will help to meet the deficit if any. The more passengers the greater the income. Secondly, if a Member has a friend or relative, say, his wife, in the Gallery of the House, it seems to me rather unfair not to allow her, if there is room, to travel on the bus with her husband. As I say, this is a domestic matter. It will be for the House to decide. I merely put that forward as a commonsense suggestion, which I trust will be acceptable to Members on all sides of the House.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
The Financial Secretary talked in one sentence of the fare being economic, and in almost the next sentence of a deficit. How does he reconcile those two words?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
If the hon. Member will wait, I will perhaps come to that. I said we are working in the dark. It may be that there will be a deficit; we shall have to see as we go along. Visitors and the Press would, of course, pay the same fare as Members, but whether the staff of the House or those who are kept under the Gallery on the service of the House should pay at the same rate, is a matter for this House to decide. The Government have an open mind on the subject. The feeling of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that on the analogy of the good employer, the staff of the House, perhaps below a certain level of remuneration, might receive this service free, or, if this is not agreeable to hon. Members, then for a reduced sum. We would, however, as I say, welcome an expression of opinion from Members on this point.
Finally, the scheme is, and must inevitably be for some time to come, an experiment. We have at the moment no exact means of knowing what use Members will make of this service, and the routes that will be followed, or even with what smoothness the service will work. Nor can we tell what loss, if any, there may be upon it. If a loss is sustained, we estimate it might be in the region of £2,000 to £3,000 per annum, or perhaps, at the most—I think is the outside figure as far as we in the Treasury can judge; I want to be frank and open with the House on this—about £4,000 in a full year.
§ Mr. Keeling
Will the hon. Gentleman now answer the question I previously put to him? How can he talk about an economic fare and then talk about a £4,000 deficit?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Perhaps I should have explained; I thought I had done so. The proposal is that Members should pay what we think is an economic fare for the distance they travel. In addition we should carry officers and members of the staff. It has yet to be decided whether the staff are to be allowed to use this service free, or whether they shall be asked to pay something, if not the full economic fare. It will all depend upon the decision of this House— and we would like an expression on the part of the House on this matter— whether there will, therefore, be, so far as some passengers are concerned, a possible loss, whilst, quite obviously, we do not want there to be a loss so far as Members are concerned. That, I think, is the explanation which the hon. Member wants.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
Would not there be a loss on the occasions when the buses are standing by but not used?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That again is a contingency which inevitably would add to the overall cost of the service and it might very well mean that a deficit would eventuate, though we hope it would not be a large one. If a deficit does arise a supplementary Estimate will be needed, when no doubt the matter can be debated at some length and reconsidered. In the meantime, I hope the House will agree to the Motion on the understanding that the scheme will operate to the end of the present Session, as an experimental period The experience gained will guide us in any future action we may take. If the House passes the Motion, it is proposed to bring the scheme into operation when we reassemble after the Christmas Recess.
Before I sit down, I wish to say a few words about the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in the name of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, in line 3, to leave out "Members and." I am not quite sure whether the Motion would not permit Members to travel by the buses notwithstanding the fact that they were not specifically mentioned in 1900 the Motion. The Motion refers to persons attending on the service of the House. I think it could be said—at any rate, it could be argued—that Members of Parliament come within the scope of those words. On reflection, I think right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will see that if this scheme is to operate—and I understand that they are willing that it should; for everyone else except Members—there is a good deal to be said for Members being allowed to use the service if we want the loss to be lessened or if we wish to have no loss at all. I hope the House will approve this Motion, that we shall get unanimity of agreement upon it, and that we may in the coming months watch the experiment in order to see whether our view materialises that it will be useful to a large number. If it does, it will then become a permanent feature of this House.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I beg to move, in line 3, to leave out "Members and."
When one reads the terms of the Motion which the House is asked to approve, one gets no idea at all of the scheme which is to be operated thereunder. Indeed, it was not until we heard the Financial Secretary, that most Members of this House could have any idea of the financial provisions involved in the operation of any scheme for providing transport. The difficulty of Members in getting home when the House sits late is no new thing. It happened during the war, and I am sure it happened before the war. I was glad the hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that it certainly affected his side of the House as much as it affected this side. Indeed, as he pointed out, perhaps more cars in London are owned by supporters of the Government than by Members on this side of the House and, after all, there are always "lifts" in Ministerial cars. There is a distinction to be drawn between the provision of transport for hon. Members of this House, and the provision of transport for officers and staff. If further provision is considered by the authorities of this House to be necessary to take home the officers and staff, then we would have no objection to any reasonable arrangement. But the suggestion that transport for hon. Members should be provided either at the public expense, or partly at the public expense, is entirely 1901 another matter, and, in my view, and, I think, in the view of those who sit on this side of the House, there is no justification for it at all. There is no justification, particularly at this time, for casting any extra burden upon the taxpayer, who is already carrying a very heavy load. Of course, it may be argued that this will not cast any extra burden upon the taxpayer, in view of the new income to be received after the passage of the Trafalgar Estates Bill, but the Financial Secretary has in my view dealt with this matter in a most unsatisfactory manner.
First, he told us that it is likely to take no less than 11 buses and their staffs, and that they may be kept standing by all night. The hon. Gentleman did not say one word about the effect which that would have on the public services in London—a very important point. When one tries to get an improved bus service for the general public, one is normally met by the Minister of Transport saying that the service will be improved as there are more drivers available, more conductors, and sometimes, more buses. What would be the effect of keeping staff and buses standing by all night? Does it mean that, on the occasions on which the warning signal is given, the bus services in the early morning will be reduced for ordinary members of the public? That is a matter which should be dealt with and be explained to the House, because, in considering what further privileges may be enjoyed by hon. Members of this House, we ought to have regard to what extent it would place an increased burden and increased difficulties on the travelling public.
Then, we are told that the stand-by each week the House is sitting will cost £13 15s. a week. As I understand it, this provision will be made primarily for Members of Parliament, because it has been said that some 300 will make use of it. If it is only to be a provision for the staff and officers of the House, it is obvious that the cost will be very much less, because, obviously, not nearly so many buses will be required. It may even be that it will be much cheaper, on the few occasions on which this service is wanted, to hire a few cars or use some of the cars from one or other of the Ministries. There has been no suggestion at all from the hon. Gentleman that, if Members of Parliament use these buses, they should pay any part of the cost of the 1902 standing by. As I understand it, all that would fall to be borne by the taxpayer. Really, what is this for? The hon. Gentleman did not tell us that, in the last year, it would have been under 30 times that this service would have been used by hon. Members of this House if it had been available. The hon. Gentleman did not tell us very clearly what the estimate of the loss would have been in the past year if we had had this service. I suggest to him—he can correct me if I am wrong— that it would have been a sum of between £2,000 and £3,000 a year in order to get some, or nearly all, hon. Members of this House home when the House sits late.
Of course, it may be that in this coming year, with Socialist legislation and more regulations, we shall have more Prayers. It may be that the Patronage Secretary feels some doubt as to whether he will be able to keep the requisite number of Government supporters in the House. I do not know; I am speculating about that. But I assure him that if that thought ever entered his mind, the attractions of a nationalised bus would not make his task any easier. The Government are trying to create an expensive service to serve what is a limited need, so far as Members of the House are concerned, and if any service of this kind is to be organised, the full cost should be borne by the Members who use it, and not a penny should be borne by the ordinary taxpayer.
It may be that with a little more planning, the Government might limit the night shift to those who live close by or who have cars. It may be that a little more thought and a little more private enterprise on the benches opposite would dispense with the need for. employing the London Passenger Transport Board. I would like to know what inquiries have been made as to whether it would be possible on these occasions to hire the requisite number of private cars from one of the private hire services. I would like to know whether any estimate has been made as to the cost of such an arrangement. I find it difficult to believe that every night this House sits late, there would be anything like 300 Members wanting to make use of this service. I think that is a great over-estimate.
This matter deserves serious consideration. After all, in 1911 this House granted an allowance of £400 to Members of Parliament, not as a remuneration but purely 1903 as an allowance. It was increased to £600 in 1937 and was increased again this year, to £1,000 a year. We now have free warrants for travelling between our homes and the House, and between the House and our constituencies, and we ought to be most careful in considering what further privileges and perquisities we grant to ourselves. The Financial Secretary said that he approached this matter in no party spirit, and informed us that the Government Whips have not been asked to function. It will be very interesting reading to see the Division List, because I remember an occasion not so long ago when we were told that the Government Whips would not operate, that it would be a free vote, and then the Lord President of the Council, in the course of the Debate, indicated quite clearly to the Government supporters what the view and the decision of the Government was. That occasion was the Debate about an inquiry into the Press. We shall watch this matter with care. I hope it will be a free vote and, considering the present financial position and the burden borne by the taxpayer, I hope hon. Members on both sides of the House will say that this is not the time to embark on any further experiments with an unknown and unlimited burden likely to be cast upon the taxpayer at the end of the year.
I hope this Motion, covering as it does an extremely vague scheme, will be rejected, and that before it goes to a Division hon. Members will leave no doubt as to their views. We take the view, if I may repeat myself, that if a service is required for the officers and staff of the House that is quite a separate question, and it is most unfortunate indeed that the two topics should be merged together as they have been. It is with that object—to limit it to the officers and staff—that this Amendment is moved.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Lieutenant-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
My first word's must be words of sympathy to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on being called upon to handle this matter in the absence of those Ministers who, in my opinion, should deal with it, namely, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Lord President of the Council—who, as I shall show presently, is the Minister roost interested in this proposal—and the 1904 Minister of Transport. Running my eye along the Treasury Bench I fail to detect the presence of one Member of the Cabinet. May I say next that I take no exception at all to the proposal that the various members of our staff who are kept to an inordinately late hour, should be taken to their homes free of charge. After all, they have no say in the matter at all; they have no opportunity of voting against the suspension of the Rule. They are kept here by the decision of the House; and I have felt for some time past that it is a hardship upon many of them— attendants, messengers, Hansard staff and others—that they have to find their way home, in the early hours of the morning.
As a member of the Select Committee on Members' Salaries and Expenses which was set up by this House almost exactly a year ago I have certain observations to offer on this proposal. We had lengthy deliberations, and the Select Committee was unanimous on one matter—that we should arrive at a global figure which should cover the proper expenses of a Member of Parliament and that there should be no perquisites. That was agreed to by all. Hon. Members may recall that when these proposals came before the House for endorsement, I took the opposite view to some of my hon. Friends who resisted the increase of salary to £1,000 a year: I did so on the ground that that global figure was fair and necessary, in view of the duties we have to perform in these times. It is possible for hon. Members living in London to claim their expenses against Income Tax. It is possible for them to set off the cost of transport of this kind, and one of the things which we envisaged was that hon. Members who are kept late at the House might be put to the expense of hiring cars to take them to their homes. How many members of the general public would welcome a salary of £1,000 a year and facilities to enable them to get home from the various duties which they have to perform?
I was really astonished to hear it suggested that these perquisites, now proposed, extend outside the boundaries of the membership of the House of Commons. We find that apparently aunts, sisters, and sweethearts may join in this concession. May I ask the Financial Secretary what happens if 1905 there is a full bus? Do hon. Members get priority; or are they left behind while the wives and sweethearts ride home? What are we really being asked to do? I suggest this in all good temper to hon. Members on all sides of the House. What we are really being asked to do is to subsidise the pernicious practice of all-night Sittings. Hon. Members ought to know, by now, that business done after midnight is business badly done. That is why I suggest the Leader of the House should be here, to explain what is really behind this suggestion. Further, I should like to know if we are to have a balance-sheet published in connection with this experiment. We are not to have balance-sheets in the case of other Government experiments, such as coal or the railways, to show exactly what each scheme is going to cost the taxpayer. Are we to have one in this case?
May I say, quite frankly, that this proposed arrangement would suit me admirably. I heard the Financial Secretary read out the name of the suburb in which I happen to reside. I shall nevertheless vote against this proposal, and I shall go further.
When the proposal to increase salaries was before the House I suggested that hon. Members who objected should refuse this increase, and return it to the Treasury. May I say in the presence of all these important witnesses that if this proposal goes through, I am not going to use this bus. I shall hire a car, if I can persuade other Members to share the expense, as I have not the fortune to own a car. But I submit that it is utterly monstrous that the taxpayer should be called upon to bear the cost of taking Members of Parliament home, because they sit to an unreasonable hour. The Government make the arrangements for the business of this House and the real answer to this difficulty is a perfectly simple one—that the Government should not overload the legislative programme. They should so arrange their affairs that the House can rise at a reasonable hour, at, say, midnight. [Interruption.] I am being subjected to interruption by one of the Ministers of the Government who does not realise that it is out of Order to interrupt when he is not in his proper place or seat. It is none other than the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, who, I suggest, would be better 1906 engaged in trying to provide homes for the people.
I trust that hon. Members on all sides of the House will have a sense of responsibility in this matter. Eight months ago, I stood in my place here and defended the increase in salaries. I did so on the ground that I believed the global sum of £1,000 per annum was necessary, if we were to carry out our duties with dignity and efficiency. But I will be no party to creating a further perquisite which will stink in the nostrils of the public.
§ Mr. Speaker
There is one point which the hon. and gallant Member seems to have forgotten in his speech, and that was that he rose to second the Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
So many other matters were in my mind at the time, Mr. Speaker, that I forgot. I now beg to second the Amendment.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I should have expected the House of Commons to have been at its best this evening, but I am sorry to find that it is rather at its worst. Surely we are entitled, as a House of Commons, to regard this proposal not from a party point of view, or from the point of view of whether hon. Gentlemen opposite can hire taxis or cars to get home, and whether hon. Members on this side of the House have to lie about in the Libraries and Smoking Rooms as I have seen them do. when the House sits late.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)
May I ask whether the hon. Member proposes to use this service to return to St. James's Street?
§ Mr. Bowles
I listened very carefully to the list of routes read out, but no bus in the scheme appears to go past my flat, which is not ten minutes' walk from here. I have no car and I am speaking completely disinterestedly. I am trying to restore to the House of Commons a sense of pride which, if I may say so, it seems to have lost. I was quite amazed at the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). He appears to have some curious idea that it is a matter of privilege, whether he can get home or not, but that other hon. Members may get home as best they can. The House of Commons must function properly, and I should stop at no single privilege being given to any hon. Member, on any side 1907 of the House, if he carries out his duties to his electors. I was also amazed that the hon. and gallant Member for Holder-ness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) should have taken the rather unusual attitude indicated by his speech. He is one for whom, in the past, I have had great respect, especially having regard to his work in looking after the staff of the House and caring for the general amenities of this House. He made a very good speech, which I well remember, in the Debate on the increase of salaries of hon. Members, but I am surprised that he has taken the line which he has followed on this occasion.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
I want to make it clear that I made no complaint regarding facilities for members of the staff. On the contrary, I endorse the provision of those facilities.
§ Mr. Bowles
I do not regard this provision of transport for hon. Members after they have finished the day's work as a "perquisite" at all. That is what it has been termed. I am not going to say more, but I think that the House might have shown itself at its best this evening. Up to now, as I say, it has shown itself at its worst, and I am sure that the hon, and gallant Gentleman will, on second thoughts, realize that we are not here concerned with obtaining any special privilege for poorer hon. Members, for those of the middle income groups, or any other hon. Members. All we are trying to do is to see that this House can do its job without hon. Members having in mind that their last bus may be going in half an hour. We want to see that, if Members are working at a late hour, they should be enabled to do their job and be transported home in comfort.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
May I ask the hon Gentleman if his remarks embrace the wives and sweethearts of hon. Members? Will he have a Gallup Poll of wives, to see whether they approve of this measure?
§ Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)
On a point of Order. May I ask if it is in Order for the hon. and gallant Member opposite to suggest that the hon. Member embraces my wife?
§ Mr. Bowles
I can see no reason why any persons interested in the working of 1908 Parliament, whether they are hon. Members, or members of the staff, or the police, or others, should not have every facility placed at their disposal.
§ 10.44 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I am sorry that this proposal has been brought before the House, because it forces some of us into a position which we would rather avoid. I know well of the difficulties of getting home after late Sittings of the House, for hon. Members who have not cars at their disposal. But are we to extend every facility to the staff who are kept here if we sit late? The House must be aware that certain facilities are provided for staff who are kept here late. The second point is, and I am sure the Financial Secretary will agree, that this scheme stands or falls on the participation in it of Members as well as staff. These are very austere days for many members of the community, and it is my conviction that they are going to be harder and more austere in the next two or three years. I feel strongly that if this House votes itself extra privileges at a time like this, it is going to lower its prestige in the country, among those who are feeling the pinch of very hard times.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)
I shall, first, declare my interest in this. matter, as we did in the previous Debate. My interest is that I am a Member without a car, living at a distance too far for me to walk; and therefore, I find it difficult to get home when the House sits after a quarter past midnight. I am astonished at the two speeches we have had from the other side of the House. They did, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) said, fall far short of the requirements of this Debate. We had, for example, the astonishing argument from the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) that the standing by, or even the use, of eleven buses on any particular night, would upset the bus services of London on the following day.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I put a question to the Financial Secretary. I did not say it would upset the bus services, but asked what effect it would have on the services for the public, if these drivers were kept standing by all night.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
If there is any difference between what the hon. and learned Member says he said, and what I said he said, I fail to see it. He asked whether this scheme would have any effect on the bus services of London on the following day. I would ask him to make inquiries about the number of buses in service in London on any particular day. I think that will be sufficient answer. I hope I have made myself clear. What I am trying to point out is that the use of eleven buses would represent something like .001 per cent. of the bus services of London.
The hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) made the remark that the Government have the responsibility of organising the business so that we should not be kept here all night. I venture to remind him that he is not strictly accurate. There are many occasions under the Rules of the House when, whether the Government like it or not, he and his friends can keep the House into the middle of the night, as they have done. Behind the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness sits the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who is an expert at saying nothing at very great length, and it is not so long ago since Members on the other side deliberately kept us here until the last buses and tube trains had gone, and then told us we could go home.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
Will the hon. Member not agree that these are occasions when we have to pray against certain Orders in Council, and that the way to avoid this is to legislate in the proper manner?
§ Mr. H. Hynd
I would be the first to do my duty by staying here all night, two or three nights a week, if necessary, on my Parliamentary business; but I have painful recollections of the experience which shocked me as a new Member, of sitting here until the early hours of the morning and listening to—[An HON. MEMBER: "Tripe."]—I hardly dare use the word— from the other side. Let me give one example. On one occasion I rose to protest against a speech made from the other side on the question of the Highway Code. On that occasion a Member had complained for about 15 or 20 minutes, because no provision had been made in the code for the use of rickshaws. That is the kind of thing to which we all must object; it is the kind of thing that lowers 1910 the dignity of Parliament, and the kind of thing which makes this Motion absolutely necessary.
The Government have asked for our observations, and I am going to make one observation which may not please my hon. Friend on the Front Bench. As he said this would be a matter for a free vote, I take it I am perfectly in Order in disagreeing with him on one thing. That is his assertion that there are as many Members on this side of the House with cars as there are on the other. I disagree with that. I am not a member of the Stock Exchange, but I am quite prepared to bet that he is wrong in that assertion. I suggest, first, that we should make a strong endeavour to cut out these all-night Sittings. That would be the sensible way of conducting our business. But if there are occasions when we have to wait, and as hon. Members on the other side have said that they do not object to special arrangements being made for the staff, then, surely, there would not be objection to Members of the House going home in the buses provided for the staff? What is wrong with that? As regards paying for the service, I am quite prepared to pay my share, and I think many Members would be prepared to pa}' more than the staff would be called upon to pay. It is not essential to the scheme that we should pay uneconomic fares. But, at any rate, let us have some method of getting home.
May I make another suggestion? Could we not suggest to the London Passenger Transport Board that the bus service proposed should be put on as a regular service on the proposed routes? There are other people besides Members of the House who would like to use these buses occasionally, and if these buses were running regularly, on these routes, many of the objections to the scheme might be obviated. For these reasons I strongly support the Motion, and if the only objection is the cost of the scheme, I suggest the cost should be worked out on an economic basis, so that we may know what fares we are to pay.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I was not aware until the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. H. Hynd) spoke, that this matter of all-night Sittings was one in which I had ever played any important part. I am one of those who have, almost invariably, had to walk home, and I have 1911 the most thorough dislike of all-night Sittings. They have never been caused, so far as I am concerned, except by the overweening follies of the Government of the day. But I am not going into that now. I welcome, and, I think, every Member of the House welcomes, the fact that we all agree about one aspect of this matter —there are two distinct aspects of it—and that is in regard to the staff. The other side of the matter, on which there seems to be some disagreement, is the inclusion of hon. Members in the scheme. The Financial Secretary said that this was not a matter of politics; that it was just a domestic matter to be settled among ourselves. I, at once, thought, as he said that, that, as the House was dealing with a domestic matter, it was the clear duty of the Leader of the House to be here. Only a day or two ago, the Leader of the House was described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as our dictator, and perhaps, on this occasion, he has very kindly absented himself in case his presence might seem to put pressure on any of his back benchers. But I feel that in regard to this matter even though his own people might not want him, the Liberal Party might have been willing to accept his guidance.
Perhaps I might say a word on the Motion. Until the Financial Secretary spoke, I do not think any Member had the faintest idea how far this transport would take anyone. We now know that the transport is to be provided only within the London area. Surely that should be made clear in the Motion. There should have been something binding which would prevent the scheme being widened at any future time. Then we learn that the Financial Secretary has considerable difficulty in finding out what the cost will be He says that it may come to £2,000, £3,000, or £4,000, but that it really depends on how many people use the service. I am not quarrelling with his statement, although I am rather surprised at it, and my only regret is that this matter is being considered at this time of night when very few of the hon. Gentleman's remarks will be reported in the Press. I am surprised to learn that these buses are to be available to the wives and friends of Members. I think it would be interesting to know just how widely that statement applies.
We should remember, when we are subsidising a service of this kind, that we 1912 are the trustees of the finances of the nation, and when a trustee votes money out of the income of a trust, it is sometimes thought to be a curious proceeding. Before voting on this Motion, we should ask ourselves whether this is the time; when the public are enduring very great privations, and when a Member of the Front Bench has warned the public of much worse things to come, for Members of Parliament, with comparatively little publicity, to give ourselves this privilege. There is a tendency always to veer towards giving ourselves, as Members, additional privileges. I am not one of those who can afford a car in London, but I believe that on a matter of this kind Members would be well advised not to vote themselves an additional privilege after they have aready done themselves very well in other ways. I shall support the Amendment, not with any desire to make the position of Members more difficult, but because I am sure that it is in the best interests of Parliament that we should not grant ourselves any privilege of this sort unless we are certain that it is necessary. No one can maintain that the occasional nights on which we have to sit late, are any justification for the Government bringing forward this Motion.
§ 11.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
I am sorry that this Motion is being treated in a party spirit Any of those who have been at the door in the House know that there are Members, on both sides, who do not speak very much in Debate, who are rather better perhaps in their attendance than some who do speak, and who remain in the House to support their parties at great personal and physical sacrifice. I think it is unfortunate that an advantage should be taken of an infirmity of that sort. It has been said by a Member opposite that the House has sat late on 30 occasions, actually it is 27, and on the great majority of these occasions it was Opposition business, either on Prayers or—
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
Surely the hon. Member is not suggesting that Prayers against Orders are Opposition business? They are House of Commons business Orders lie on the Table—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I am trying to ascertain, 1913 whether the hon. Member is asking a question, or making a speech.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I merely interrupted, Sir, to point out that the hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that Prayers against Orders are Opposition business. They are House of Commons business. Any Member has the right to move to annul an Order which lies on the Table for two days.
§ Mr. Bing
Prayers against Orders are Private Members' time. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are not."] Well, they provide an opportunity for back bench Members to raise various questions. However, I am not quibbling with the hon. Member about one phrase or another. There are a number of important matters—for instance, the Incumbents (Discipline) Measure, which we shall debate tomorrow night— which, presumably, are of interest to all Members. Whether or not a Member records his vote should not depend on whether or not he has a motor-car.
The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) said he thought the cost would be somewhere between £2,000 and £3,000. Actually, I think the figure would be in the neighbourhood of £2,000 gross, if the scheme had been in operation last Session. What the net losses will be, or whether in fact the House makes a profit, depends entirely on how many hon. Members use the service. If we debar hon. Members from using the service, we increase the cost. There may fee an argument in favour of prohibiting hon. Members from using it, but it is not the argument put forward by the hon. and learned Member. It is no argument to say that we want to save the taxpayer's money, because by prohibiting hon. Members from using the service, we shall in fact, increase the amount to be paid by the taxpayer.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Does the hon. Member really suggest that anything like eleven buses will be required to convey the staff?
§ Mr. Bing
That is exactly what I am suggesting. After all, by some strange coincidence, members of the staff of the House of Commons do not all live in the same place. In order to convey them to their different destinations, it is necessary to have a number of buses which pursue different routes. I should have thought 1914 that problem was quite simple to anyone who has ever used a bus. The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that the "night shift" should be left to those who have cars. I cannot think that that is a proper suggestion. We have a responsibility to our constituents. It may be that an hon. Member desires to raise a matter on the Adjournment, or other hon. Members wish to hear a Debate. Are only hon. Members who have cars to be able to do this? I am sorry the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) is not in his place. He spoke on the question of Members' salaries. It is quite true that hon. Members have a salary of £1,000 a year. It is also true some hon. Members are able to augment their salary in other ways. But it is possible that those who are able to augment their salaries arc able to afford transport home, while the ordinary Member is not able to do so. It has to be remembered that it is not open to all hon. Members to follow a part-time profession. If one looks at the occupation followed by most hon. Members one finds that it was coalmining. But there is not a convenient mine here, in which hon. Members can work part time. There are offices of various companies where hon. Members could conveniently serve part-time as directors, but there is no reason to suppose that a person able to use his spare time as a director and who can afford a car should necessarily vote in a Division, or remain in the House.
The hon. and learned Member said that the sum of £13 for buses standing by was very large. I do not think it is. I think it is an extremely generous offer on the part of the trade unions who agreed that their members should stand by for a low figure.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)
I do not want to go into detail on this matter but to consider it solely as a question of prin- 1915 ciple. I suppose the germ of the party opposite originated some 150 years ago, in the great days of the Whig aristocracy. For those 150 years the forebears of hon. Gentlemen opposite have been fighting the world of privilege. It comes as rather a surprise to find that, in the whole of that time, their complaint against privilege was not one of principle; and that all that was involved was that they wanted the privilege for themselves. Here we have a proposition which, if carried to its logical conclusion, must be unlimited. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) put it on the basis that we must have at our disposal all that is necessary for our comfort and all that is required to enable us to do our business. If that is carried to its logical conclusion, what is to happen, say, when we come to the Summer Recess? Are we to have a Motion that all Members are to have free holidays provided for them at public expense? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite may jeer. I ask where one is draw the line once we embark on a matter of principle of this kind.
In the life of this Parliament we have already granted sufficient privileges to Members—increased salaries and increased travelling facilities at public expense, and better meals at lower prices. Somewhere, the line must be drawn. If we do not make a stand somewhere, on a question of principle, and say that Members are not to continue voting themselves more and more privileges, then we are in danger of getting to a point at which Members of this House become a privileged class distinct from members of the public. Without any question as to whether or not it is convenient, I believe, as a matter of principle, we ought to make our stand somewhere and that we should do it here and now.
§ Mr. Bowles
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman really think that this House can do its job of work properly if it rises at three o'clock in the morning and hon. Members have to lie about this building until six or seven o'clock, and then serve upon a Standing Committee at 10.30 o'clock the same morning?
§ Mr. Marlowe
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that hon. Members have been doing so for several hundred years.
§ 11.13 p.m.
§ Major Cecil Poole (Lichfield)
I doubt whether I should have intervened in this Debate had it not been for two remarks made by hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. I see that neither of them is now in his place, both, I suppose, having gone home. I refer to the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr C. Williams)—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is here."] He has come back. I apologise to him.
§ Major Poole
I have already said that I apologise to the hon. Member if he has been in the House the whole time. If hon. Members did not talk so much among themselves, they would hear much better what is said. The hon. Member for Torquay spoke about hon. Members "doing themselves well." I think that is an unfortunate phrase and lowering to the dignity of the House. It is completely untrue. It is most unfortunate that it should come from an hon. Member of experience, who has occupied the responsible positions which the hon. Member has occupied in this House. The second remark to which I take exception is that of the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite). I am not so much surprised in this case, because during the life of this Parliament the hon. and gallant Member seems to have clothed himself in a mantle of self-righteousness. He stands up as frequently as he can, to assert that he alone possesses all the virtues of a House of Commons man and that everyone who disagrees with him must be wrong. He used an equally undesirable word in relation to hon. Members when he spoke of "perquisites" as though we were people going round pinching the pens out of the trays, and drinking the ink out of the bottles.
I am not affected by this Motion. No bus will take me home if the Motion is carried and if the buses operate, unless buses are going to run to Birmingham. My humble abode in London is within walking distance of this House, and I am very happy to have to walk on occasions in order to keep my streamlined figure. It does me quite a lot of good. But I assert that the attitude of the Opposition to this Motion is nothing less than irresponsible humbug and hypocrisy. In fact, I will go further than that. If hon. Members opposite thought there was the slightest chance of this Motion being 1917 defeated, they would never vote against it. It is only because they know that this Motion is almost certain to be carried and that the buses will be available to take them home, that they think they can curry favour in the country by appearing to oppose this Motion for providing transport of which they themselves, in their heart of hearts, will be very glad to avail themselves when it is provided. I imagine they will clamour for it just as much as anyone else.
I regard this service for getting Members of Parliament from their work when there are no other means available, as just as much a part of the machinery of government as the provision of electric fight and central heating in this building after 10.30. If Members of Parliament are not entitled to have the public utility service of transport to take them home, by what right are they allowed to burn electricity beyond a certain hour? Why should not Members pay for the extra electricity consumed in the House, for the extra cooking facilities which have to be provided and for the whole gamut of facilities necessitated by night Sittings?
I notice that Members of the Opposition are prepared to agree that this facility shall apply to the staff. In fact, they are most pleased that it should be available for the staff. I wonder what those hon. Members were doing through all the years when they provided the government of this country, when not only did they fail to provide the staff with buses to take them home, but did not even provide them with decent wages. Every time the House went into Recess, the poor devils in the kitchen here had to go wandering around the coast towns of the country trying to get jobs. No wonder, one characterises the opposition to the Motion as pure hypocrisy and humbug when hon. Members opposite profess to have some interest in the staff of this House. I prefer to believe that they have rather a rooted objection to riding in the same buses as the staff of this House. I would sooner believe that, than believe that they have an interest in the staff.
§ Colonel Wheatley (Dorset, Eastern) rose—
§ Major Poole
The late buses are not running tonight and, therefore, we ought to try to catch the last bus home. If the objection to this scheme is the cost which 1918 will fall upon the Exchequer, I am quits prepared to face the situation. I do not want anything for nothing out of this House, and I would say that if the cost is £3,000 a year, what is £3,000 a year? Let us divide £3,000 between 600 Members, and each of us pay £5 a year. I think that would commend itself to all hon. Members on this side of the House, and I hope it would to hon. Members opposite. Let us each pay £5, and, if possible, let the staff and officers of the House go home for nothing. That is the intelligent approach to this scheme.
With regard to wives and friends of Members, I confess I do not like that part of the scheme. Perhaps it is because my wife is never able to come to this House, although I can appreciate the point of view of a Member whose wife is here. However, most wives, if they were sensible, would not be in this House when it was sitting until midnight, or one or two o'clock in the morning. I should have thought that if they had any intelligence they would go home to bed before then. I would suggest that we should not make a specific provision for wives and friends to travel in these buses, but, if any hon. Member is landed with someone on his hands from his constituency, who has to get home late, I do not think we should debar those people from having a seat. The best way would be to split the whole cost between the 640 Members of the House. Let us have this scheme; it will enable us to do our job better, and it will enable hon. Members of the Opposition to get much better figures in the Divisions at three o'clock in the morning.
§ 11.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
After the last somewhat provocative speech to which we have listened, there is a danger of the House sitting very late to-night, of all of us having a very good time, but of the House of Commons getting into what I think will be a rather undignified wrangle. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who started it?"] I will not say who started it, but I say there is a danger of our Debate developing into an undignified, and very prolonged, wrangle. There is I think, general agreement in all quarters of the House that it would be a very good thing to provide transport home for the 150 odd members of the staff of this House who are detained here by late sittings. We are all, I think, agreed that the staff should be conveyed home at the ordinary 1919 fares chargeable in the daytime, which will involve a subsidy from public funds. I think that, so far, there is general agreement. The question then arises, Should Members of the House of Commons also be able to make use of this special transport? There again, there is not the slightest objection to Members making use of the buses which will be available for taking the staff home. The only point upon which there appears to be any difference of opinion is whether the fares of Members using that transport shall be subsidised out of public funds.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wants to get this point straight, and that he would not intentionally misinterpret what has been said. I can assure him that, so far as we are concerned, we do not want Members to travel at the public expense. We believe that a scheme could be worked out—we hope it can—which will ensure that members of the staff travel, either free or at a reduced fare, but that Members themselves, pay what I described as an economic fare.
§ Mr. Peake
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I have seen all the papers which have been privately circulated upon the matter, and there is no mention whatever in these papers, of any differentiation between the subsidised fares to be payable by the staff of the House, and the fares to be payable by hon. Members.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to papers which he has seen, but which are not available to Members of the House?
§ Mr. Peake
I his matter has, of course, been discussed through the usual channels, and the Government scheme has been made available to some of us on this side of the House It comes as a very pleasant surprise to me to hear that the Financial Secretary is prepared, as I understand, to undertake that there shall be one scale of fares for the staff of the House, and another and higher, scale of fares for Members who make use of this late transport. That, in fact, means that the carriage of Members home by the special late transport will not be subsidised out of public funds Am I right?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That is our intention, and if things move that way, I think I can say, on behalf of the Government, we should be perfectly willing to discuss the question of ways and means of ensuring that, so far as hon. Members are concerned, they do pay the proper fare, and that any subsidy which is to be found, is found in respect of the staff.
§ Mr. Peake
The Financial Secretary has gone a long way towards satisfying hon. Members, if it is quite clear that the fares for the staff will be on one level —let it be a subsidised level—and the fares for hon. Members on a higher level, and upon an economic level. Of course, there may be some adjustment necessary afterwards. It may involve an account being sent to hon. Members at the end of a Session, for so many Journeys home, worked out on an economic basis. If the Financial Secretary will make it clear that there is to be no charge on public funds, in respect of the carriage of hon. Members home after a late night Sitting on the special transport, there is no need for any difference of opinion. Is the Financial Secretary in a position to give such an assurance as I have indicated?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I forget whether the right hon. Gentleman was in his place when I spoke earlier, or perhaps I did not make myself as clear as I had intended to do. What I tried to make clear was that this was a domestic matter and was for the House to decide—that we were in the hands of the House. Our suggestion was that these buses should be provided, because we thought it was right and proper that hon. Members should get home at night. Hon. Members, I said, wanted nothing free, and so far as those on this side of the House were concerned, they were willing to pay an economic fare, whatever it might be, for the buses taking them within reach of their homes So far as the staff is concerned I said we had an open mind. I know my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would like to see the staff carried free, on the grounds that any good employer would do so. Nevertheless, if the House desired the staff to pay something, we would fall in with whatever the House decided. I hope, in view of what I have said, that no further undertaking is necessary.
§ Mr. Peake
I have listened to what the Financial Secretary has said and so far as his statement goes, it is satisfactory. I want to make the position perfectly clear. We will be no parties to the carriage, out of public funds, of hon. Members home in the middle of the night. We are however quite ready to fall in with any reasonable suggestion. I suggest that it would save the House from any unseemly wrangle tonight if the right hon. Gentleman would agree to adjourn the Debate— [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]—to enable further discussion to take place with a view to arriving at an amicable settlement, which will satisfy every-one.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
I have rarely known of a more comtemptible exhibition. After the position had been made perfectly clear, hon. Members opposite threw a lot of mud and now they try to run away from the issue. I am surprised at the naiveté of my hon. Friends in thinking this proposal would be dealt with in a non-party spirit. Once the mean, contemptible, legalistic mind got to work, this presented itself as an opportunity for spattering hon. Members on this side with all the mud which could be thrown. If that is done, I will stand on my feet and keep this Debate going, side by side with hon. Members across the Floor—and we can keep it going. Hon. Members opposite know that there will be no hesitation about seeing who will last the longest. I am very sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) has taken up the position in this matter indicated by his speech. I believe him when he says that he will not use this transport if it is provided. I remember the attitude which he took in the Debate on the salary increase for hon. Members. Rut, are all his hon. Friends prepared to give the same pledge about these buses, if they vote against this Motion? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] No, they will not answer. But I suggest that we should put in this Motion a provision that every hon. Member who votes against it should undertake not to use the buses.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I shall be very happy to move an Amendment. I see no reason at all why hon. Members opposite who feel so strongly about this matter should 1922 not vote for such an Amendment if it were put down, and I hope that they will take advantage of the opportunity to do so. The plain truth, I think, is that when the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness says we have in our hands the opportunity of deciding whether we shall go home at a reasonable time or not, he is really suggesting that public business should depend on public transport. In other words, he suggests that, whatever the state of public business, whatever stage we have reached in this House, we should go home.
§ Lieut. -Commander Braithwaite
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if, in his exalted position of one with an income of a thousand a year, he expects his constituents to pay for his transport home because the House has sat late?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am not personally affected by the matter, as I think hon. Members know. I am not interested one way or the other, but if the Government take up the proposition of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield (Major Poole) and have a "whip round" for the transport for the staff, I suggest that that would be in order. If the thing is going to cost £3,000, a "whip round" of £5 a year each would cover it. [Interruption.] With great respect, Mr. Speaker, some of the hon. Members who are interrupting have not spoken at all in this Debate. If there is any dubiety about this matter, let me say chat we want no subsidy in this business. The whole point, which surely must be known to hon. Members on all sides of the House, is that one just cannot get transport at two or three o'clock in the morning. There is no transport available at that time of night —or rather, morning—and when hon. Members suggest that a service should be provided but that hon. Members should not make use of it, they are making an absurd proposal. The suggestion that some people who are kept late at night should not make use of such a service is the most fantastic thing I have ever heard. Are we going to suggest that hon. Members will hang about the House until three o'clock in the morning just for fun? If they are kept here why should they not make use of the service to their homes? I apologise for having spoken with some feeling, but I did feel rather angry. Perhaps I said more than I would have said if I had not been so angry and 1923 perhaps I have a rather quick temper. But I do feel that this is a matter for the House, and that the House has not done itself justice in the way it has treated the proposal tonight. This is not a case of people with cars against those without cars. It is a case of getting the business of the House done, and this Motion suggests the way in which we can get it done. I hope the House will pass the Motion.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
May I put a question to the hon. Member? Does he mean by that, that he is in favour of Members of the House not only paying, the extra cost of carriage, say, from here to Highgate, but also their proportion of the standing-by charges?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I meant that there should be no subsidies of any sort in a matter of this kind. That is all.
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
I confess that I was a little deceived when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that this was a domestic, and not a political, matter. My experience of domestic matters is that they are much more agreeable than political matters. But that is not how things have turned out. It has turned out as the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has indicated in making his substantial contribution to the Debate. I wish the Government had not brought this domestic matter before the House. I can speak from a unique position in this matter, because I was the only Member in the House who opposed what I still think was the shameful procedure of increasing salaries, without first consulting the people of the country. I had no support from any one else in the House and I had to submit to the criticism of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who commented in a disparaging way upon my opinions. So I am at least consistent in this matter. I did not seek the privilege of a thousand a year, and I seek no additional privileges from the House.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
My hon friend is not the only one. He was by no means alone in that attitude.
§ Sir W. Darling
I am glad my hon Friend corrects me. I am referring to 1924 the occasion when the Chancellor of the Exchequer first announced the setting up of the Select Committee. I am not referring to the subsequent occasion when the matter was put to the vote of the House. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity of making that clear. I say this from the almost egotistical point of view of a Scotsman representing a Scottish constituency. I, with other Scottish and provincial Members, spend two nights out of bed every week in my public duty, and think nothing of it. These soft-skinned— tender-footed Englishmen, mostly Members for London constituencies, are apparently concerned about the fact that the public business for which they are amply paid, keeps them out of bed for an hour or two, once or twice in a Session. That is what we are being asked to consider. This is a domestic matter right enough. The hon. Member for South Cardiff and the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), I understand, have wives at home who lament their untimely absence.
§ Mr. Bowles
The hon. Member apparently does not know, what everyone else knows, that I am a bachelor
§ Sir W. Darling
I am sorry if I misrepresented the hon. Member, but his rapt and happy expression always suggested to me that he has some secret joy and happiness. It is not for me to penetrate these mysteries. But this project before us, this domestic convenience which is being offered to London Members, involves a very serious consideration. I can speak quite with feeling on this matter, because every night—often in the early morning—I walk home to where I sleep, and, believe me, there is nothing more cooling for ebullient and eloquent speakers like myself, of whom there are many in the House. Walking home in the night they can trim their wits, and recite the speeches which they have been prevented by the Whips from making. That is preferable to a long journey in the bus, with those persons with whom one has sat all day long, one's competitors in the Debate, perhaps equally disappointed and embittered with oneself; or with those also in the galleries who have waited to hear the speech that was not delivered. That is the company in which, according to the Financial Secre- 1925 tary, we should end a disappointing day. I say when we have done with the House of Commons let us walk soberly—as you, Mr. Speaker, would wish us to do— soberly, solemnly and singly home to our beds.
The proposal the Financial Secretary has put before us is significant. It is introduced in an interval in the discussion of the great Transport Bill. This is an astonishing piece of planning. I cannot believe this is the product solely of the intelligence of the Financial Secretary— providing 13 buses—[HON. MEMBERS: "Eleven.")—11 buses to stand by sometimes, to go round by Highgate and Twickenham and Balham and other suburbs of London, as may be desired. This is an astonishing piece of Socialist planning, placed before the House of Commons in an interval in the discussion of a Transport Bill, which is to command all the ramifications of transport. Any confidence I may have had in the Bill languishes now, in view of the appearance of such plans as this for the Members who live in London; plans which require such a Debate as this, and such formulation of schemes and arrangements of subsidies and "whip round"— which, I think, was the expression of the hon. Member for South Cardiff—in order that the staff may pay what is called an "economic price." If this is the first of our Socialist transport plannings—well, I am not easily enamoured of it.
But there are other possibilities, to make these proposals more attractive. If hon. Members representing London boroughs or suburbs, who arrange political party meetings at local Labour halls, could come down by the ordinary transport, and arrive with their constituents at 9.30 o'clock, when, it is known, Mr. Speaker may call upon me to speak, such an entertainment would attract large numbers to those little party gatherings, particularly if they were assured of special transport home. I know how difficult it is to keep political organisations together. This would be a contribution to the local Labour organisations in the county and City of London, and I suggest that it should not be overlooked. But it is not a project of which I, as a Scottish Member, am enamoured.
§ Sir W. Darling
In matters of this description we have been asked to consider the dignity of Parliament. I think that Parliament has a dignity, but to treat a subject of this kind seriously is very difficult. There are some absurdities that can only be countered by wit and raillery, and I have endeavoured to contribute something in that direction. This attempt to secure one petty privilege after another, this attempt to secure something which hon. Members can enjoy, and which no workers in any factory can enjoy—
§ Sir W. Darling
The privilege is quite obvious, because even if one pays for it, one is not paying the economic price. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Probably I know as much about transport as the hon Member, but no one can tell me that the economic cost of withdrawing eleven buses of a capital value of £3,000 each, together with garage expenses, and standby crews at trade union rates—who may strike sometimes; do not let us forget that possibility—and the economic cost is met by the figures obscurely presented by the Financial Secretary. There is a limit of decency below which ordinary men and women do not choose to fall. This is the limit of decency and I have my standards of shame.
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Grimston (Westbury)
The speech of the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) reminded me of an April day; it started off with a thunderstorm, and finished with sunshine—to be followed by the merry month of May. It is evident that there is not much point in dividing the House upon this question at the moment. So far as providing staff transport is concerned, it seems to me that it is a much more simple proposition, than providing transport for Members. The staff are fixed in number, or nearly so, and go home to the same places every night, whereas in the case of Members we should have to provide for variable numbers. If the Financial Secretary can give us an undertaking that no charge 1927 shall fall upon public funds, in respect of Members, for their carriage home or for a proportion of the standing charges, I think that we should be able to accept an assurance of that sort. Both sides are agreed that no charge should fall upon public funds in respect of Members, but we are not satisfied that the Financial Secretary has given us such an undertaking. If he could give such an undertaking, the difference between the two sides of the House would be removed.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
If it will help to bring these proceedings to an end, I most certainly can give that undertaking, and in order to implement it to the full, I would suggest, if it finds favour with hon. Members opposite, that steps be taken during the Recess, through the usual channels, to discuss this matter. In that way perhaps we can see that the sums charged to Members of Parliament, when they travel by these buses, will be such as will implement to the full, the undertaking I now give on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
In view of the clear assurance which has removed the doubts which have been in our minds from the beginning of this Debate, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that provision should be made for transport for Members and officers of this House, and persons attending on the service thereof, when the House is adjourned at an hour when normal transport facilities are not available.