HC Deb 23 March 1948 vol 448 cc2781-2

3.45 P.m.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

I beg to move. That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Statement made to the House on 22nd March by the Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker, that he acted in his professional capacity as a solicitor against an hon. Member of this House in a matter which might have resulted in legal proceedings; and to report whether such action is consonant with the proper and impartial discharge of the duties of this office.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

I would like to say on behalf of the Government that we are prepared to accept this Motion. If the House sees fit to accept this Amendment, I think it will be agreed that it is desirable for the Select Committee to begin their inquiry without delay. With your consent, Mr. Speaker, and the consent of the House, I am prepared forthwith to nominate hon. Members to serve on the Committee. I am aware that notice is normally required of Motions to nominate members of Committees, but I hope that it will be possible on this occasion to waive this requirement with the consent of the House. Perhaps I should inform the House that the hon. Members whom it is proposed to appoint have been approached and express their willingness to serve on the Committee.

Mr. Churchill

I feel that the course which the Prime Minister has adopted in accepting this Motion will be in the general interests of the House and in the interests of all parties concerned. We are obliged to him for accepting the Motion. The matter is not one of a personal character but touches certain principles which should, at any rate, be explored and pronounced upon by the House. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the alteration of procedure, we are, of course, in the hands of Mr. Speaker, but on this side of the House we have a strong feeling that this matter should be disposed of as quickly as possible in the interests of all concerned.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the House would like to know that I have given this matter consideration. One of the first matters that I have to consider is whether it would in any way prejudice the right hon. Member whose case we are considering. I have come to the conclusion that, far from that, it is probably the fairest thing to do in his interest. Otherwise, the Business of the House is a matter which we must consider, and it is not for the convenience of the House if this matter is not expeditiously dealt with. I have come to the conclusion that this matter is ultimately based on Privilege, and it is the right of the House to provide for the effective discharge of its functions, and in such matters the general rule is that for the convenience of Business or Debate this should be treated as a matter of Privilege. Therefore, the rule about giving notice can be waived.

The Prime Minister

I beg to move, That Mr. Eric Fletcher, Commander Galbraith, Mr. Keeling, Mr. Leslie, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, Mr. Hopkin Morris, Mr. Ernest Thurtle, Mr. Ungoed-Thomas, Mr. Viant, Mr. Westwood, and Mr. John Wilmot be Members of the Committee. That the Collimate have power to send for persons, papers and records and to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House. That Three be the Quorum.