HC Deb 07 March 1947 vol 434 cc913-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st clay of March, 1947, for the salaries and expenses of the House of Commons.

Captain Crookshank

As there are still five minutes before the Motion for the Adjournment it might be appropriate for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to make some sort of public statement with regard to the question of late night transport, considering that we had a Debate about it early in the Session, and the plans now proposed are different from those which we anticipated.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

Actually the plans are not greatly different from those which were approved in December when we debated this matter. The suggestion is that this service should be called upon whenever the House sits beyond 11.30, which is normally the time when transport ceases, and that Members should, if they use the services, pay at the rate of 6d. a mile up to a maximum of 4s., for any journeys which they undertake. They will pay a fare in the usual way, and the conductor will hand them a ticket for the amount tendered. As far as the officers and staff of the House are concerned, they will only pay—this is a suggestion—the normal standard daily fare whatever that may be, for the distance they travel on the route. In order to differentiate between one set of travellers and the other, it is proposed that vouchers should be issued by the Vote Office to the staff who desire to use this service on any particular night. We are largely working in the dark, and it is difficult at this moment to estimate what the cost will be, but an assurance has been give that as far as Members are concerned, no cost will be borne by public funds and that the scheme should be looked at, about Easter if it has begun to run by then, and, again say near August when the House rises for the summer Recess, and after that at fairly frequent intervals in order to ascertain how the service is going, and whether we are making a profit or loss upon it, so far as Members of this House are concerned. It is also suggested that if there is room, members of the Press Gallery and any friends of Members who may be in the House should be permitted to use this service; but if they do so, they will be required to pay the same fares as a Member, namely, 6d. per mile or part of a mile up to a maximum of 4s. We propose to put details of the routes, and the simple regulations which will be laid down, in various parts of the House, so that both Members and staff can see exactly what is intended. These will be exhibited in the Library, in the lower waiting hall and in the Members' cloakroom, and if Members are interested, as I have no doubt they will be, the details can be obtained from the Fees Office.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

As the right hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) has pointed out, we had a Debate in this House three months ago on this matter, when it was decided in principle that we should have a late bus service for Members who sit here after the ordinary bus, tram and tube services have finished. Why has it taken so long for the Government to do the simple job of putting 11 buses on the road, when we are here to 1.30 or 3.15 in the morning. I think that it is perfectly scandalous. It makes me angry that the House of Commons should not be conducting its own business properly. We suspend the Rule day after day in order to get Government Business through. If there is a loss on this service, I do not mind whether it comes out of public funds or not.

Captain Crookshank

The public does.

Mr. Bowles

We have to sit here until the early hours of the morning, and what is the difference? We have lights on in this Chamber and other parts of the building. Why should Members not be able to go home in ordinary, decent comfort? I feel very strongly about this. I think that the Government have been very slack in this matter of getting these buses on the road. Members on both sides of the House are really tired, and hon. Members on the other side have on occasions been taken home by Members on this side in their own private cars. I would like to know if the right hon. Gentleman will have these buses starting on Monday night.

Earl Winterton

If the hon. Gentleman wants to stop his Government from getting this Vote he has gone a good way towards doing so. He has made the most monstrous charge against Members on this side of the House. No one has cadged lifts from hon. Members opposite. I warn the hon. Gentleman that if he puts this forward as a matter of controversy, we shall fight the Government every inch of the way. As it is, the Government have shown, not for the first time, more common sense and more sense of decency than the hon. Member.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I agree that this matter has taken some time, but I would remind my hon. Friend that the previous Debate was shortly before we rose for the Christmas Recess. It was not until we got back that we began negotiations with the other parties, as it is a matter, I think, upon which we should get common agreement. Various suggestions have been made, which have resulted in this matter being held up during the last month.

It being Four o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

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