HC Deb 28 July 1949 vol 467 cc2669-71
72. Mr. Symonds

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if the Committee of Inquiry on Cruelty to Wild Animals will hear evidence in public.

Mr. Ede

This is a matter for the Committee to decide.

Mr. Symonds

As it is desirable that our constituents should be familiar with all the evidence on both sides in these matters of controversy and as such evidence had better be assimilated in small doses while it is still fresh, rather than in one large lump by publication after the inquiry is over, will my right hon. Friend think of informing the chairman that this House would welcome a public inquiry following the good example of the Royal Commission on gambling?

Mr. Ede

I think the best thing will be for the Committee to consider the answer I gave and the supplementary question my hon. Friend has put.

Earl Winterton

Is there not a very important constitutional issue here, that this House and no Minister of this House has any right to interfere with how a Committee of the kind conducts its business? Is it not for the Committee to decide that?

Mr. Ede

That is what I first said.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Is my right hon. Friend aware that holding the meetings of this Committee in public would go a long way towards removing the doubts of those organisations which have expressed their apprehension that one of the members of the Committee is a former master of foxhounds and another is veterinary surgeon to two packs of hounds?

Mr. Ede

A committee which is to inquire into a subject of this kind must be representative of all phases of public opinion and I have no doubt that some people who do not take the same view as my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) view with dissatisfaction the presence of other members of the Committee.

Brigadier Head

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are a large number of vermin who would like to air some very articulate grievances before this Committee?

Mr. Greenwood

Does my right hon. Friend's first answer imply that it is now his intention to have a burglar on every bench of magistrates?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir, because this Committee will not pronounce on the issue. It would, however, occasionally be of advantage to a Bench to have a burglar as an expert witness.

Mr. Henry Strauss

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he thinks of the suggestion made by his back bencher that a veterinary surgeon is prima facie in favour of cruelty?

Mr. Ede

I did not draw that conclusion from the point which my hon. Friend put.

Mr. Strauss

On what grounds—

Mr. Cecil Poole

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for an hon. Member to refer to another hon. Member of this House as "his back bencher"?

Mr. Speaker

That is a new point to me. I cannot say without giving the matter consideration.

Mr. Strauss

May I at once withdraw the word "his," if I made that slip? Was there any other possible interpretation of the hon. Member's objection to a veterinary surgeon sitting on this Committee?

Mr. Ede

As I said in reply to an earlier supplementary question to another Question, I cannot be responsible for the processes of other people's minds.