HC Deb 05 April 1951 vol 486 cc502-18

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Pearson.]

9.46 p.m.

Mr. Iain MacLeod (Enfield, West)

The matter which I wish to raise tonight is one that I raised at Question Time on 13th March. We have not yet on the Government Front Bench a responsible Minister from the Ministry of Local Government and Planning, which is very discourteous to this House, because he has had the fullest notice for a very long time that this matter was to be raised on the Adjournment tonight. He should be here to listen and to answer to matters of principle when they are raised.

Mr. Mellish (Bermondsey)

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary did not expect the debate to come on until at least 10 o'clock. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is his business to keep in touch."] He has other jobs to do, but I understand that he is on his way here now, and I hope hon. Members will not say any more about it.

Mr. MacLeod

I will certainly comment on that, because if through inefficiency I had not been here until 10 o'clock, I should have lost this debate altogether. The business of this House goes on, and it is essential that a Minister be in his place, particularly when he has had notice and has replied to me that he would be in his place to answer on this matter for which he is responsible here.

I am not raising this matter because a Socialist mayor has used the ratepayers' money to go on a jaunt or a series of jaunts to a speedway track. I am raising it because a fundamental matter of principle is involved, affecting the relationship between the Ministry, in this case the Ministry of Local Government and Planning, and the district auditor.

I should like to make it clear at the beginning that I know none of the people involved in this matter. I have had no discussions with them and I do not intend to mention any names. I have not been asked by the Conservative Association or anyone else to raise this matter. Does the Parliamentary Secretary wish to say something? I have told the House that I have not been asked by the Conservative Association or anyone in Bermondsey to raise this matter. If the Parliamentary Secretary likes to doubt that, he can get up and say so.

I gather that this matter first received publicity in the national Press in October or November of last year, and it came to my notice a few weeks ago when I was looking through the minutes of the London boroughs for statistics in relation to housing lists. It was then that I noticed this council meeting of 22nd November, 1950, held in Bermondsey. It was clear from what was in those minutes that the story was unfinished, and I put down some questions to the Minister of Local Government and Planning, and as a result I pursued this matter to an Adjournment.

Ever since the 1879 District Auditors Act, these officials have been employed first by the Local Government Board, then by the Ministry of Health and now by the new Ministry. Their duties are laid down in Part X of the 1933 Act. By Clause 220 the Minister can appoint and dismiss them, and by Clause 221 they are paid out of moneys provided by Parliament. It follows—I quote the leading authority on local government law—that these district auditors are civil servants but not agents of the Ministry.

In his capacity as district auditor, this official audited the accounts of the Bermondsey Council for 1948–49, and his report was published on 6th October, last year. A summary appeared in the local Press—in the "South London Press"—and perhaps I may just read the headlines, which seem to be an adequate statement of what was said: District Auditor Castigates Overstaffed Council. Mayor Made 33 Speedway Trips in His Official Car, Finance Officials Unqualified. The newspaper report proceeded as follows: Sharp criticism of nearly every department of Bermondsey Council is made in the annual report of the district auditor who has called for economies, drawn attention to the lack of qualifications by the staff and commented on the use of the mayoral car for journeys to New Cross speedway. This matter came before the Bermondsey Council on 22nd November. They made a great number of comments, incorporated in a resolution, some of which reflected very severely on the integrity of the district auditor. They directed that copies should be sent to the Ministry and to the local Member of Parliament. It is fair to say that the Bermondsey Council—I regard it naturally as regrettable—is 100 per cent. Socialist. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Perhaps those who cheer might like to reflect on what happens in those circumstances to the ratepayers' money. This resolution is not only a council resolution but a party resolution as well. The council have taken the highly unusual step of incorporating in the minutes the speech of the chairman of the Finance Committee in which he asks that full prominence shall be given to his remarks.

Those are the facts. I should like to go into detail on one or two matters. With what the district auditor says in his comparison of departments I am not very much concerned. He draws a comparison with another Metropolitan borough which is not mentioned but which I believe is Poplar. This is a private fight between Poplar and Bermondsey into which I have not the slightest intention of entering; but when it is suggested that the district auditor did not take any account of the relative differences between the two boroughs, I would, among many other possible quotations, read this: I made comparison of these numbers and scales with another Metropolitan borough slightly larger in area and population. After making full allowance for the fact that in that borough there are fewer properties under the control of the council, I have come to the conclusion"— etc. There is a very distinct comparison of the services rendered in many examples in the district auditor's report.

Secondly, the district auditor comments on the accountancy system, on the fact that it takes a year for this council to present its accounts, and on the weakness of the internal audit staff, and he ends up by saying: At the date of my audit I understand that no officer in the borough treasurer's department possessed any of the recognised professional qualifications. Thirdly, we come to the criticism which has attracted the most Press attention, although I do not think that because of that it is the most important in this matter, and that is the question of the mayoral car, in regard to which, leaving out names again, the district auditor said: The entries in the log book relating to individual journeys show that between the 1st April and the 30th September, 1948, no less than 33 journeys were made to the New Cross Speedway Track. The councillor concerned …attended the audit and stated that on each occasion upon which he used the car to visit the New Cross Track he did so in his official capacity as Mayor. He further stated that his visit followed an invitation made either in writing or by telephone. It is recognised that the mayor is entitled to be provided with transport for all journeys associated with, or incidental to, the carrying out of his official duties, but I find difficulties in accepting that it was either necessary or desirable that the mayor should make such frequent official visits to a speedway track outside the confines of the Borough. One might share the district auditor's opinion.

It is unnecessary, except a little on the last point, to go into details about the very long reply which the council have included in their minutes. It includes a large number of remarks about the district auditor, varying from pin-pricks to the most serious form of charges. It concludes with these statements, which I invite the House to notice: In conclusion, we venture the opinion that some of the comments contained in the above report of the district auditor go far beyond the auditor's duty to see that the council's record of accounts is within the law and that the expenditure during the year under review was reasonable. A little later it says: …an expression of our view that the district auditor, in drawing comparisons between Bermondsey and another borough, has exceeded his duties and has entirely failed to make a fair comparison, and as a consequence has made most unjustifiable criticisms.

Mr. Mellish (Bermondsey)

Hear, hear.

Mr. MacLeod

I can understand that. On the question of the mayoral car, the Bermondsey Council reply: Regarding the above comments by the district auditor on the subject of the use of the mayoral car…. the councillor— attended our meeting and discussed the matter fully with us; and in the light of certain facts pointed out by him— we have scrutinised the mayoral car log book, which is intended to provide a record of all journeys. This log book, which was not seen by… the councillor— during his year of office, clearly shows a number of additions to the original record; and a comparison of these with the New Cross Speedway programme gives rise to the gravest doubts that we all feel—and which should have been obvious to the auditor—about the veracity of the record. I would observe, first of all, that when the councillor attended the district auditor's examination, he made no suggestion at all—anyway nothing is included—that the number of journeys was considerably less, or less at all, than the figure of 33 given by the district auditor. The suggestion that the log book had been altered, presumably by the person in charge of the car, is extremely interesting, because after I raised the matter on 13th March I received a letter, of which I propose to read the relevant paragraphs, from the driver of the car himself. He says: Dear Sir, I read in the South London Press dated 16.3.51 that you raised the question of the auditor's report on the Bermondsey Borough Council. I, being the chauffeur that had driven the mayor's car for 19 years, would like to point out that all entries made of journeys to New Cross Speedway in the log book during 1948 are genuine. I wrote and asked if he was still in the employment of the Bermondsey Borough Council and he replied that he was not and that during last year—presumably during the time of the audit—he was in Canada. I find it difficult to understand why the driver of the car should bother to write to me unless he was seriously aggrieved by the accusations made by the Bermondsey Council. The last point I want to make in regard to the speech which I said was included in the minutes—

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, Question proposed. "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Royle.]

Mr. MacLeod

In regard to these minutes I want to make two brief extracts from the speech of the chairman of the Finance Committee. He says: The Council is always ready to receive constructive criticism based on full knowledge of the facts, but the present report was entirely destructive and had no real appreciation of the true facts. And this, above all, is the important thing: The auditor's report lacked either intelligence or integrity. That was the position as I knew it when, on 13th March, I brought this matter to the notice of the House. I asked the Minister what action he proposed to take. He said he did not think any action was called for by him because, if there is an appeal against any district auditor's report, he has jurisdiction. That is so, of course, under Section 229 of the Local Government Act, but that is an appeal against a surcharge and in this instance no surcharge has been made. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), referring to certain discussions on auditing going on on the Standing Joint Council, asked: …there has been no intention at any time, in this case, of questioning the integrity of the officer himself?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1293.] One can fully understand enthusiasm for supporting one's local council, but one cannot dare to say that an accusation that the auditor's report lacked either intelligence or integrity is not a reflection of the most serious character.

What can the Minister do about this, and what should he do? There are two things he can do. Under Section 236 of the Local Government Act, 1933, he can order an extraordinary audit, not necessarily by the same auditor, into any specific part of the finances that are normally the subject of a district audit. Should he use that power? I would say that the answer is "no" if this were a question of a jaunt, or a series of jaunts, in transport, because the publicity—the comments of the district auditor and, presumably, the threat of a surcharge if to be repeated—is no doubt enough to cover that situation. But when the most serious possible reflections are made on an officer of his Department, both in regard to his professional standing and his standing as a civil servant, to which he cannot reply, then I have no hesitation in saying that the Minister must do something to clear up this matter.

There are two possible explanations. The first is that the district auditor is correct—that the journeys were made, that the driver who has written to me is correct and that the council made, well, a misguided but, say, an understandable attempt to protect an erring colleague and in that, unhappily, were led into casting most serious reflections upon a professional man. The second possibility is that the district auditor is wrong, that the driver who has written to me is wrong, and that a most serious injustice has been done to the Mayor of Bermondsey for 1948. Whichever of those explanations be true, the matter cannot be left there; whichever of those explanations is true the Minister must take this one stage further.

This brings me to the second course which the Minister can adopt, and which is the one I should like him to consider. He has been brought into this matter because the Bermondsey Council have sent him a copy of their comments on the remarks of the district auditor. I do not know what covering letter was sent with them. They may or may not have invited comment—no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us—but when that comment has gone to them, the Minister cannot allow it to remain there.

If he remains silent on this matter, then by implication he can be condoning the action of the Bermondsey Council. He can be condoning a serious reflection on an officer of his. If we agree on nothing else tonight, he will agree that one of the first principles in a matter like this is that a Ministry should protect their own servants. Either this civil servant—this district auditor—has grossly exceeded his duties, in which case he is not fit to hold the position that he holds, or alternatively, a wanton and vicious attack on the integrity of an officer of the Ministry has been made. Whichever it is, the Minister cannot, should not, and indeed dare not, leave the matter there.

I do not know whether, when the Minister replied to me on 13th March, he was in full possession of all the facts. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that he did not know the additional information—I am not talking about the driver of the car—contained in the letter which was added to the resolution and was contained within the minutes; but knowing them as he does now, I hope that the Minister will tell the House tonight that he is taking this matter that much further, that he will not allow this position to rest as it does now, either as a reflection upon the district auditor or as a reflection upon the council. I hope we shall hear from the Minister tonight that he is prepared fully to protect the standing and integrity of a civil servant who is also a professional man.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Planning (Mr. Lindgren)

Before he sits down, would the hon. Member be good enough to let me know, as he has asked me to reply—and, of course, I will do so—the purpose of his raising this matter? To deal with the case adequately, one has to get behind it and to find out, if possible, the hon. Member's purpose in raising this matter. Is his purpose purely one of concern for the standing and status of the district auditor?

Mr. MacLeod

Surely, the purpose is perfectly clear. A council has criticised the standing and integrity of a man who cannot reply. My matter is concerned only with that. I should like to know whether the Minister thinks he should intervene in this matter to protect his official and, if he does so agree that he should intervene, what action he proposes to take.

10.8 p.m.

Mr. Mellish (Bermondsey)

First, I thank the hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain MacLeod), for his courtesy in writing to me when he put down a Question in the House and advising me that he had done so, and for his courtesy in writing to me again when he was successful in the Ballot and informing me that he was going to raise this matter on the Floor of the House; I think I speak for all Members when I say that these common courtesies are appreciated on both sides, and I say very sincerely to the hon. Member that I am very much obliged to him.

Having said those nice things about the hon. Member, I now propose to deal with the subject matter and to say straightaway that I am not convinced that the hon. Member has come to the House and raised this matter on an Adjournment debate purely on the great principles which he has enumerated. [Interruption.] I am entitled to my opinion and I am saying it. The local Conservative Party of Bermondsey have not at any time criticised this position. There was a by-election in my constituency only two or three weeks ago, after one of the councillors had resigned on leaving the district or for a similar reason. There was an opportunity for the local Conservative Party to challenge this position, but they did not even make a nomination.

People locally, who, after all, follow this matter—they are ratepayers and take a great interest, we assume, in local affairs—did not raise the matter at all. Evidently they are satisfied with the report given by the local council. The hon. Member for Enfield, West, however, finds sufficient time to put down a Question and to raise the matter on an Adjournment debate, and then asks us to believe that he is doing this as a non-political matter and purely out of the goodness of his heart because he is so interested in the welfare of the auditor. [HON. MEMBERS: "That proves it."] I am sure that the hon. Member will allow me to say this: that he has had no representation from the local Tory Party, who obviously lack guts and courage to raise any matter on their own account; that he must have been briefed by his own Conservative Central Office, who have asked him to raise this matter, and that he is doing it on their behalf.

Mr. MacLeod

I am very sorry, but I really must not be misrepresented on this. Of course I have not been in touch with the Conservative Central Office, or anyone else. I gave the explanation and I should have thought the hon. Member could have believed what I said. I saw, as I said, the minutes of every single borough in London and I was getting from them details about the latest housing position in London when in these minutes I noticed this matter. It had nothing whatever to do with the Conservative Central Office. I have not been in touch with them, or the secretariat, or the research department, or anybody else, and I should like the hon. Member to withdraw that.

Mr. Mellish

With great respect, like the hon. Member, I am a Member of this House and have many problems and difficulties in Bermondsey and if the Enfield Borough Council were in diffi culties of this kind, irrespective of what their politics are—and in those I am not interested at the moment—I would not raise a matter concerning another council. I submit quite frankly, and it is important that this fact should be established, that this matter has been raised as a political argument to smear a 100 per cent. Labour borough council. Let us deal with it in that light. If hon. Members are to come down to this House and endeavour to convey that this is purely non-political—although we are a 100 per cent. Labour borough council—and that they are only concerned with the integrity of the auditor, I do not think anyone on this side of the House will agree with that.

Mr. Studholme (Tavistock)

On a point of order. Surely it is the tradition of this House that hon. Members accept an assurance given in good faith. May I suggest that it would be only courteous that the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) should accept it.

Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I only deal with points of order and not with points of courtesy.

Mr. Mellish

My borough council, of which I am proud, have I believe 100 per cent. support. They have been smeared and the whole purpose of this debate is to obtain a great deal of local publicity. My council have been attacked indirectly by the hon. Member and I am not prepared to accept that this debate has been instigated from any other point of view than the political. I am the first to be courteous in this House. I am only a young Member and I tried to be courteous at the beginning of my speech by thanking the hon. Member for informing me that this matter was coming up, but this is a political matter and I am trying to deal with it as such and am going to defend my borough council when it is attacked by hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Angus Maude (Ealing, South) rose

Mr. Mellish

I did not interrupt the hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain MacLeod), but allowed him to say exactly what he wanted.

The district auditor came to Bermondsey, as the hon. Member admitted, and audited the accounts and on 6th October issued his report. That report was given a great deal of publicity. One principle to which my council objected strongly was that the method of audit was by comparison. The district auditor decided—he has a right to do as he likes and I do not question that right—to audit by comparison on this occasion, although he has audited for years not by that method, and he made certain strictures of various departments of the borough council.

We live in a democracy and as a council we have a right to criticise the auditor. Imagine what the position would be if it had been a Conservative council and the district auditor had come down on the eve of an election and issued such a report which was completely critical of the way in which the council conducted their affairs, and that on that basis the council fought an election before being allowed to express their point of view. It did not happen in that particular case. But my council took very strong objection—and it is the only time we have criticised this auditor—because of the method in which he audited our accounts, which was purely by comparison. The hon. Member for Enfield, West, started this row, and if I can, I am going to try to finish it by proving, at any rate, that my council were quite right in defending themselves on this issue.

It was by comparison that the district auditor decided to make these strictures on the council. He took a particular borough. The hon. Gentleman says it was Poplar. I will accept his word for it; he evidently seems to know a lot about it. Let us take one department alone, the library department. The auditor said that, as compared with this other borough, which he did not name, our library department was overstaffed and was excessive as compared with that of the other council—nothing else than that. What he did not mention—and this is so grossly unfair—was that we issued 722,000 books in Bermondsey as compared with 556,000 in this other borough.

He did not mention that in Bermondsey we have a picture collection—which they have not in the other borough—which is one of the finest of its kind in London with over 93,000 items. He did not mention that Bermondsey, as opposed to the other borough, has a hospital library service, a linguaphone class, translation service classes, library lectures and So on, and therefore carries a larger staff, because it is doing far more work than the other borough. He merely said in his report that, compared with this other borough, the borough council of Bermondsey had spent more morey. We severely criticised him for saying that about one department as opposed to the other. Were we not entitled to say that? I think we were. I think we were entitled to defend ourselves.

Take the housing position. We were criticised by the auditor. He said that in Bermondsey the housing department expenses were greater than those in another borough. What he did not mention, and I think this ought to be said—this may be of interest to hon. Gentlemen opposite—was that in the inter-war years, about which hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like us to talk very much—

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

Any war?

Mr. Mellish

Just a few years ago, Bermondsey Borough Council were building in London more houses than the whole of London put together, and that was under the control of a Tory London County Council.

Mr. Iain MacLeod

I am not disputing the record of Bermondsey in its beautification, or in the number of houses it has built. With great respect that is not the point. The council have a right to disagree with the district auditor, but what I do challenge is that they have the right to call a civil servant and a professional man lacking in intelligence and integrity I hope that particular sentence will be dealt with.

Mr. Mellish

I shall deal with that. He also mentioned the case of the mayor to which I also will refer, but now I am dealing with the housing position. He compared the Bermondsey Borough Council with this one borough and on the basis of that comparison, he issued the whole of his report. I do ask hon. Gentlemen to see the importance of that. He criticised my borough council on a comparison with another council. Throughout the whole of that report he did not mention what the other council was giving in service compared with us. We have 4,010 flats and houses as compared with 1,046, so obviously our housing department from an administrative point of view would be more expensive.

I want to deal now with the question of the mayor. Comments were made about the gentleman who was mayor of Bermondsey in 1948. The hon. Member is wrong when he says that when the district auditor interviewed the mayor for that year he did not make the comments which I am now about to mention. In fact, the ex-mayor told him that the log book was completely wrong. I do not excuse the ex-mayor for not having checked the log book, but I think it will be generally agreed that a man would have confidence in his personal chauffeur and would believe that the log book would be kept correctly.

The point is that the ex-mayor of Bermondsey who spent a considerable amount of his own money in addition to his allowance during his year of office, was accused of having been to the New Cross Speedway Track on 33 occasions. It was said that that was in the log book, and the district auditor made comments about it. It was pointed out to the district auditor at that time that there were not that number of meetings at the New Cross Speedway Track during the year in question. But there they were in the log book. Apparently the ex-mayor went to a number of meetings which did not take place. Therefore, the matter was queried.

I do not intend to claim the privilege of this House in making attacks on anyone. I respect the hon. Gentleman opposite for not mentioning anyone by name, and I shall not mention anyone by name. The person who was the chauffeur was not available to give any criticisms of the audit. The hon. Gentleman left that matter vague so that it might be thought that he was sacked.

Mr. Iain MacLeod


Mr. Mellish

That is the trouble with the hon. Gentleman. He tries to put on an innocent air, but if his remarks are read in HANSARD, that is precisely what it will look like. The chauffeur for that period left the council of his own accord. He was not sacked. He collected his pension money and went to Canada. While he was away this audit took place. It is now said that he has written to the hon. Gentleman and that he says that in fact all these entries are correct. With great respect, I say that they could not have been correct by virtue of the statement about the actual number of meetings during this period at the speedway track and the statement about the number of journeys made. Although the auditor knew this, these comments were not made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Look at the time."] This concerns my own local council.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

There is also a Minister here.

Mr. Mellish

What should happen now with regard to the so-called strictures made by my council on the district auditor? I think that everyone on all sides of the House will agree that my council has the right to defend itself, and to do it so adequately that the local Tory Party has not got the guts or the courage to fight them on it as a local issue. We will take them on any time they like on this issue. They have not got the guts to do it. The hon. Member for Enfield, West, raised this matter and then he put it in a wrong light, because the council minute is as follows: We therefore recommend— (a) That a copy of our observations as set out above be transmitted to the Minister of Health together with an expression of our view that the District Auditor, in drawing comparisons between Bermondsey and another borough has exceeded his duties and has entirely failed to make a fair comparison, and as a consequence has made most unjustifiable criticisms. That is a fair minute. That is what they felt, and that is what they said. This is not the first time that a district auditor has been criticised by a local council. The minute continued: (b) That the attention of the local Member of Parliament be drawn to the matter. That was the minute: nothing more or less than that. But, of course, it is regretted that the leader of the council in his comments said this: The auditor's report lacked either intelligence or integrity. I say sincerely that there was never any intention on the part of the leader of the council to question the personal integrity of the individual as such. No one doubts that. He has acted as auditor for our council for a great many years.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)

What is personal integrity?

Mr. Mellish

Frankly, it was an expression saying that there was no intelligence or integrity in the auditor and that the report, as such, was not fair to Bermondsey. No one is questioning the man himself, except to say that the report, as published, was indeed most damaging to the council, which has one of the finest records of any council in London and is a 100 per cent. Labour council, which the Conservative Party even today would not dare to decry.

10.26 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Planning (Mr. Lindgren)

I am sure that the House will acquit me of not replying fully to this debate, because the time is so short. It is quite right that my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), Who represents that borough, should adequately deal with this matter, and I think that he really has done so.

This debate really falls into two sections. One concerns the question of the powers and functions of the district auditor and his relationship to the Minister, and the other concerns the Bermondsey Borough Council. I should have liked to have dealt much more fully with the question of the district auditor and his functions and relationships, but, in case I am accused of dodging the issue, may I first deal with the Bermondsey Council and come back to the district auditor?

The district auditor carried out his audit and presented his report on the audit for 1948–49 for the Borough of Bermondsey, and that report, in fact, makes certain criticisms of the administration of the borough. That was within the general functions of the district auditor, and so was it to make certain suggestions to remedy defects which he saw in the administration. He does that very thing in all local authorities, from parish councils to county councils, and it is a requirement that the council should consider his report. The council did consider that report, and the Minister, at the same time as the Council and the public, is furnished with the auditor's report. The council also favoured the Minister with their observations on the auditor's report.

Let me say quite frankly that these observations, which were received by the Minister as the formal observations of Bermondsey Council acting as a council, were couched in the most correct language, and did not cast the slightest reflection on the district auditor in any way and were absolutely correct and proper from their point of view.

Now, the hon. Gentleman referred to the question of a member of the council and his observations, and he referred to the fact that a member of the council, in his speech, said that the district auditor either lacked intelligence or integrity. [Interruption.] He said, "either, or." It would have been quite in accordance with good Parliamentary style for my hon. Friend to have said of the hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain MacLeod) that he lacked both intelligence and integrity.

Mr. Iain MacLeod

I could defend that.

Mr. Lindgren

It would be equally wrong for me, speaking for the Govern- ment, to say that. Therefore, one has to take into account the circumstances. If a member of the council is speaking in open council debate, that is one thing, but if, within a resolution moved and recorded, a council says the same thing as a council, then that is something entirely different, and if the hon. Gentleman really expects my hon. Friend to follow Press reports of any and every tuppenny ha'penny council from one end of the country to the other in regard to anybody, then that is something which I really cannot think he intends us to believe. Speaking as a member of the Government, I am prepared to say—

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half-past Ten o'Clock.