HC Deb 16 July 1946 vol 425 cc1061-2
Mr. Bowles

May I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to Division 245 which was taken at 7.25 p.m. on 11th July? This Division was called, and it in fact took place. I was in the Chamber, and so were a large number of other Members. I understand from many Members that immediately after the second call certain Members left the Chamber, arid that the view was expressed and carried through the corridors into the Library, and to the Committee corridors upstairs, that the Division was off. I have been asked to draw your attention to this fact. Certain hon. Members seem to have the idea that the bells ring twice—once for the first call to a Division, and then for the second call. In point of fact the bells ring four times for 23 seconds each, with about four seconds interval, and therefore the bells have ceased finally to ring before the second call which takes place two minutes after the first call. Certain Members were deceived not only because the view was going about that the Division was off, but because the hell had ceased to ring. I dare say the counsel of perfection is that every Member should make up his own mind and assure himself whether a Division is off or not, but we know from experience that it is almost impossible for.a Member to do this if he is at the other end of the building, and hearing the "Off" cry, he naturally thinks that the Division is off. Although it may he thought by some Members that your powers, Mr. Speaker, do not extend outside this Chamber, I am perfectly certain that if I held back the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) by force and pre- vented him from voting against, say, Bretton Woods, he and you, Sir, would have had something to say about it.

I do not say that this action was calculated, but it did in fact happen, and I am wondering whether you, Sir, can give any indication to the House as to your views on the matter.

Mr. Speaker

I can only say that I can remember very often in the past somebody thinking a Division would be off, saying "I expect it will be off," and then someone saving "Division off" and Members going out and saying "Division off." That can easily happen, and I can remember Members going out of the Chamber, and wiser Members coming in to see whether the Division was off or not. I am sure that no Member would deliberately try to prevent people from voting by going out of the Chamber saying "Division off," and I am sure that all hon. Members would be entirely against that. If there is any doubt, watch the policeman. If the policeman says "Division off," he is the authority, as well as for calling out "Division." If the policeman says "Division off" and the Division is not off, I suppose I should get into trouble. I think that is the answer to the hon. Member.

Mr. George Porter

In view of the statement you have made, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the authority who protects Members, namely, the policeman, are you aware that during one of the all-night Sittings, the policeman said "Who goes home?" and a number of Members left the House in consequence?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid I am not aware of that. After all, it was a Committee stage, when I was not there.