HC Deb 27 June 1951 vol 489 cc1381-93
Mr. Alex. Anderson

I hesitate to add to the number of questions of Privilege which are constantly being thrust upon you, Mr. Speaker, but I feel it my duty, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Estimates. to bring to your notice an article which appears in the "Daily Telegraph of today's date, on page 5, column 1, referring to the work of the Select Committee on Estimates. The Select Committee on Estimates is a Select Committee of this House, with all the privileges and responsibilities of a Select Committee, and, as such, its deliberations are confidential until a report has been made to the House.

In the article of which I complain, reference is made clearly to a confidential memorandum presented to the Committee, in violation of a Resolution of this House dated 21st April, 1837, which, with your permission. I propose to read: Resolved: That according to the undoubted Privilege of this House, and for the due protection of the public interest, the Evidence taken by any Select Committee of this House and Documents presented to such Committee, and which have not been reported to the House, ought not to be published by any Member of such Committee, or by any other person. In the article of which I complain, there is the following section, which I should like to bring to your notice: Hospitals would be more efficiently and economically run if they were returned to the control of local authorities, states a memorandum on the National Health Service submitted by the Association of Municipal Corporations to the Select Committee on Estimates The Association considers that "— and this is a direct quotation from the memorandum which follows— the direct accountability of the local authorities to the electorate for the expenditure they incur is more likely to conduce to economy in expenditure than the present system.' Administrative defects in the new system are strongly criticised. There would be no complaint of such an article if it came after the presentation of a report to the House, but such publication, while evidence is still being taken, before the Committee has come to its decision and before the House has had time to make up its mind on a report presented to it, seems to me to be a clear breach of Privilege. The article is a fair summary, and it is entirely without malice, but I cannot regard it as privileged.

If confidential documents submitted to this House are to be used in this fashion, much of the usefulness of Select Committees will disappear, much of the evidence which we get will be given much less frankly, and one of the valuable privileges of which this House is justly proud will be steadily whittled away. I should like to ask for your opinion, Sir, whether there is a Prima faciequestion of breach of Privilege.

The said newspaper was delivered in.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member has stated his case, and has asked me whether I think the House might like me to say whether I think there is a Prima faciecase or not. In my opinion, there is, but that does not mean that I am prejudging it. It must he a matter for inquiry. The hon. Member will now please move a Motion.

Mr. Churchill

On a point of order. I really have not understood what it is you have ruled, Mr. Speaker. Are you ruling that it is a breach of Privilege, or that it should be referred to the Committee?

Mr. Speaker

I have no authority to rule that a matter is a breach of Privilege. I can only say that there is a Prima faciecase which I think should be referred to the Committee and be inquired into. I cannot rule that any matter is a breach of Privilege, because that would he prejudging it. All I say is that there is a Prima faciecase, and it is for the House to decide what to do about it.

Mr. Alex. Anderson

I beg to move,

That the Select Committee on Estimates do inquire into the facts, and report thereon to the House.

I recognise that this is an unusual procedure, but it is not without precedent. There are precedents in the history of this House under which matters of Privilege have been referred to the Committee concerned. I can refer, for example, to one case in 1875, which had the backing of no less a statesman than Benjamin Disraeli.

I wish to move that the matter be sent to the Select Committee on Estimates for three very simple reasons. The first reason is that the Select Committee on Estimates has all the powers necessary to deal with it; the second is that the Select Committee on Estimates has sufficient knowledge of the background and the circumstances to deal with it quickly and efficiently, and the third is that it seems to me that, because of the irritability of the period through which we are passing, the Select Committee of Privileges has plently to do at the present time.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth

I do not think I can add anything to what the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Alex. Anderson) has said. I am Chairman of the Sub-Committee which is actually conducting this particular inquiry, and I think we can investigate this matter. It might be embarrassing to us if it were canvassed in public while we were actually engaged in formulating our report, and it is obviously embarrassing to those asked to give evidence to canvass that evidence in public while the matter is under discussion in confidence upstairs. For those reasons, I think it would be best if this matter could be investigated by the Select Committee on Estimates itself. We could report to the House, and it might be unnecessary to take any further action in the light of that report.

Captain Crookshank

May I say one thing? This is a very unusual procedure which we are being asked to adopt. The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Alex. Anderson) referred to a precedent of 1875., which, after all, is quite a long time ago and which certainly did not refer to the Select Committee on Estimates, because that was not established until many years after that date.

It would not be right to discuss the fundamentals at the moment, but it seems to me—I know no more than what was in the paper as the hon. Gentleman quoted it—that if any organisation or any individual submits a memorandum, document or letter, as the case may be, to any committee, it is very hard to understand how that could become, ipso facto,a matter of Privilege. After all, if I write you a letter, Mr. Speaker, I am, as far as I know, entitled to publish it. No one can prevent me. It may be a matter of bad taste, but it seems to me that it is a very big step for the House even to accept Prima faciefrom yourself that any outside body is inhibited from making any publication or statement about any evidence it has chosen to give.

If, however, it is, as the hon. Gentleman says, within the powers of the Select Committee on Estimates to deal with the subject anyhow, I do not see why it should have been brought before the House, or why we should have a Motion about it. It seems to me that the Chairman of that Select Committee, if he thought an error had been made by this particular body, could have had them before him without reference to us and given us a subsequent report. It appears to me that we are endangering the principle of not making mountains out of very small molehills.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

I do not want to make any comment on the first part of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, because it seems to me that it begged the very question that some committee ultimately will have to determine. I think the only point of interest is whether the point of Privilege raised should go to the Select Committee of Privileges, as is usual, or to the particular Committee concerned. I should have thought it was obvious that it should go to the particular Committee concerned, since the whole foundation of the claim of Privilege in this case rests upon the confidential nature of the matter being considered by that Committee.

Mr. Pickthorn

If I may without impertinence, I should like to express agreement with what was said by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), and I should like to disagree with what was just said by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I do not think that in these matters the precedents that have been indicated are really very helpful. As my right hon. and gallant Friend indicated, this Select Committee was not in existence in those days. The Select Committee of Privileges, as it at present exists, is a quite modern invention and a good deal later than that.

Though the whole question of its powers and composition may some day be discussed, that would not be in order now;

but I should have thought that when there is a permanent Select Committee of Privileges of the 20th century kind in existence, it is regrettable that a matter of Privilege should be referred to another body, and another body which is more likely to have prejudices and a sense of dignity in the matter which might not be wholly judicial. Therefore, I hope that the House will not refer this matter to the Select Committee on Estimates, but to the Select Committee of Privileges.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 283; Noes, 159.

Division No. 151.) AYES [3.47 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Holman, P.
Adams, Richard Deer, G Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)
Albu, A. H. Delargy, H. J. Houghton, D.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Diamond, J. Hoy, J.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Dodds, N. N. Hubbard, T.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Donnelly, D. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Awbery, S. S. Driberg, T. E. N. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)
Ayles, W. H. Dugdale, Maj. Sir Thomas (Richmond) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Dye, S. Hughes, Moelwyn (Islington, N)
Baird, J. Ede, Rt. Hon. J C Hynd, H. (Accringtort)
Balfour, A Edelman, M. Hynd, J. B. (Atterclifle)
Barnes, Rt. Han. A. J Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
Bartley, P. Edwards, W, J. (Stepney) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Benn, Wedgwood Elliot, Rt. Hon. W E. Janner, B.
Benson, G. Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W) Jay, D. P. T
Beswick, F. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Jeger, George (Goole)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S)
Bing, G. H. C. Ewart, R. Jenkins, R. H.
Blenkinsop, A Fernyhough, E. Johnson, James (Rugby)
Blyton, W. R. Field, Capt. W. J Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Boardman, H Finch, H. J. Jones, David (Hartlepool)
Booth, A. Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Bottomley, A. G Follick, M. Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)
Bowden, H W. Foot, M. M. Keenan, W.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Forman, J. C. Kenyon, C.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Freeman, John (Watford) King, Dr. H. M.
Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Freeman, Peter (Newport) Kinghorn, Sqn. Ldr. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T N Kinley, J.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Ganley, Mrs. C. S Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Gibson, C. W Lang, Gordon
Burke, W A Gilzean, A. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Burton, Miss E. Glanville, James (Consett) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S) Gooch, E. G Lewis, John (Bolton, W.)
Callaghan, L. J. Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon P C Lipton, Lt. Col. M.
Carmichael, J. Granville, Edgar (Eye) Logan, D. G.
Castle, Mrs. B. A Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) Longden, Fred (Small Heath)
Champion, A. J Grenfell, Rt. Hon D. R McAllister, G.
Chetwynd, G- R Grey, C. F. MacColl, J. E.
Clunie, J. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McGhee, H. G
Cocks, F. S. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) McGovern, J.
Coldrick, W. Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mclnnes, J.
Collick, P. Grintomd, J. Mack, J D
Collindridge, F. Gunter, R. J. McKay, John (Wallsend)
Cook, T. F. Hairs, John E. (Wycombe) Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N.)
Cooper, Geoffrey (Middlesbrough, W.) Hale, Leslie Oldham, W) McKibbin, A.
Cooper, John (Deptford) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) McLeavy, F.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda (Peckham) Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) MacMillan, Malcolm {Western Isles)
Crawley, A. Hamilton, W. W McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Crosland, C. A. R. Hannan, VV. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Crossman, R. H. S Hardman, D. R. Mainwaring, W. H.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Hardy, E. A. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Daines, P. Hargreaves, A. Hallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield,)
Dalton, Rt Hon. H. Hayman, F. H. Mann, Mrs. Jean
Darling, George (Hilliborough) Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Tipton) Manuel, A. C.
Davidson, Viscountess Hewitson, Capt. M. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Mathers, Rt. Hon G
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hobson, C. R. Mellish, R. J.
Messer, F. Rees, Mrs D. Tomney, F
Middleton, Mrs. L. Reeves, J. Vernon, W. F
Mikardo, Ian Reid, Thomas (Swindcn) Viant, S P
Mitchison, G. R Reid, William (Camlachie) Wallace, H. W
Moeran, E. W. Rhodes, H. Ward, Miss Is. (Tynemouth)
Motion, A. H. E. Richards, R. Watkins, T. E.
Monslow, W Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford. C.)
Moody, A. S. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Weitzman, D.
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Morley, K Robinson, Kenneth {St. Pancras, N.) Wells, William (Walsall)
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Rogers. George (Kensington, N.) West, D. G.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Ross, William Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh.)
Mort, D. L. Royle, C. White, Mrs. Eircne (E. Flint)
Moyle, A Shackleton, E. A. A. While, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Mutley, F. W Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Nally, W. Shurmer, P. L. E. Wigg, G.
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Wilcock, Group Capt C A B
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wilkins, W. A
Oldfield, W H Simmons, C. J Willey, Frederick (Sunderland)
Oliver, G. H Slater, J. Willey, Detavius (Cleveland)
Orbach, M. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.) Williams, David (Neath)
Padley, W. E. Snow, J. W. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Paget, R. T. Sorensen, R. W. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly) Sparks, J. A Williams, Rl. Hon. Thomas (Don V'lly)
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Sleele, T. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Pannell, T. C. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Pargiter, G. A Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Parker, J. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Paton, J. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith Woodburn, Rt Hon [...]
Pearson, A. Sylvester, G. O. Woods, Rev. G S
Pearl, T. F. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Wyatt, W. L
Popplewell, E. Taylor, Robert (Morpeth) Yates, V. F.
Porter, G. Thomas, David (Aberdare) Younger, Rt. Hon. K
Price, Joseph T (Westhoughton) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Proctor, W. T. Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W * TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pryde, D. J. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Mr. Alexander Anderson and
Pursey, Cmdr. H Thurtle, Ernest Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth
Rankin, J Timmons, J.
Alport, C. J. M Eden, Rt. Hon A Longden, Gilbert (Herts S W.)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N) Erroll, F. J. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Amory, Hsathcoat (Tiverton) Fisher, Nigel McAdden, S. J.
Arbuthnot, John Fletcher, Walter (Bury) McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S
Baldwin, A. E. Fort. R. McKibbin, A.
Banks, Col. C. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Maclean, Fitzroy
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir David Maxwell MacLeod, lain (Enfield, W.)
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaslon) Galbraith, Cmdr T. D. (Pollok) MacLeod. John (Ross and Cromarty)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Galbraith, T. G. O. (Hillhead) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromlev)
Bennett, W. G. CWoodside) Gammans, L D. Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries)
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxtelh) Gomme-Duncan, Col. A Maudling, R.
Birch, Nigel Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Medlicott, Brigadier F
Boles, Lt.-Col D. C (Wells) Grtmston, Robert (Westbury) Mellor, Sir John
Boothby, R. Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas
Boyd-Carpenter, J A Hastings, S. Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)
Boyle, Sir Edward Head, Brig. A, H. Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Braine, B. R. Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir Cuthbert Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Heald, Lionel Mott-Radclyffe, C E
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W Nabarro, G.
Browne, Jack (Govan) Higgs, J. M. C. Nicholls, Harmar
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wytheshawe) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E Hirst, Geoffrey Nugent, G. R. H
Burden, F. A. Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Oakshott, H. D
Butcher, H. W Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Odey, G. W
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W S Howard, Grevilie (St. Ives) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. 0
Clyde, J. L. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Orr, Capt. L P S
Conanl, Maj. R. J E Hudson, Rt. Hon. Robert (Southporl) Osborne, C.
Corbett, Lt.-Col Uvedale (Ludlow) Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Perkins, W. R. D
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F C Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J. Powell, J. Enoch
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E Hutchinson, Geoffrey (llford, N.) Profumo, J D
Crowder, Capt. John (Finchley) Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Raikes, H V
Darling, Sir William {Edinburgh, S.) Hutchison, Col James (Glasgow) Rayner, Brig. R
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Redmayne, M
Davies, Nigel (Epping) Jeffreys, General Sir George Remnant, Hon. P.
de Chair, Somerset Jones, A. (Hall Green) Roberts, Maj. Peter (Heeley)
Deedes, W. F. Kaberry, D Robertson, Sir David (Caithness)
Digby, S. Wingfield Lancaster, Col. C. G Roper, Sir Harold
Dodds-Parker, A. D Langford-Holt, J. Russell, R. S
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcoin Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Ryder, Capt R. E D
Drayson, G. B Lennox-Boyd, A T. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D
Duncan, Capt. J A L Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (King's Norton) Savory, Prof. D. L
Duthie, W. S. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Scott, Donald
Eccles, D. M. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington) Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Snadden, W. McN Touche, G. C. Watkinson, H.
Soames, Capt. C Turton, R. H. Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S) Tweedsmuir, Lady Williams, Gerald (Tonbridga)
Stanley, Capt. Hn. Richard (N Fyide) Vane, W. M. F. Wills, G
Stevens, G. P. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E) Vosper, D. F Wood, Hon. R
Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Wade, D. W. York, C.
Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Summers, G. S Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone) TELLERS FOR THF. NOES.
Teevan, T L Ward, Han. George (Worcester) Mr. Pickthorn and
Mr. Godfrey Nicholson.
Mr. Niall Macpherson

On a point of order. I desire to raise a point of order arising out of the matter with which the House has just dealt. The House has now remitted to the Select Committee on Estimates, which is a Committee of some 40 members, a question of Privilege. I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether in considering that matter the Select Committee on Estimates will be entirely master of its cwn procedure or whether it will be entitled to remit that in turn to a Sub-Committee and the Sub-Committee to report to the House. I ask this question because it is a Committee of some 40 Members and this is an unprecedented matter. I do not know whether you are prepared to give a Ruling today, but I would suggest that it is a matter to which consideration should be given, and I would ask for your Ruling.

Mr. Speaker

The Select Committee on Estimates is, of course, entirely responsible for its own procedure. We have remitted the matter to that Committee. I do not know how it will deal with it, but it has to report to the House and then we can consider what the Committee has done.

Mr. Churchill

Are we to take it that the procedure which has just been adopted, which I believe is novel, will now become a regular part of our procedure, and that it will be open to Members of the various Committees—on Estimates and on public expenditure and so on—to move that matters which appear in the newspapers shall be remitted to them for consideration as an alternative to a Motion of Privilege? Are we not opening a wide vista of possibilities which are entirely novel? I may be wrong, but I have been here a long time.

Mr. Speaker

I can give the right hon. Gentleman one instance of another procedure. We had the Reverend MacManaway case which never went to the Committee of Privileges at all. The House dealt with it on the spot. There are several ways. I can recollect other matters being dealt with by Committees but not necessarily by the Committee of Privileges. They report to the House and the House can, if it wishes, send the report of the Select Committee to the Committee of Privileges. It is not an exhaustive procedure by any means. It is a matter for the choice of the House.

Mr. Churchill

Will the adoption of that procedure require you to rule that there is a Prima faciecase for remission to the Committee on Estimates, such as has hitherto been done?

Mr. Speaker

I ruled that there was a Prima faciecase of breach of Privilege, and a Motion was then moved to submit the matter to the Committee on Estimates. It is outside my hands. It is for the House to choose. If the House chooses to send the matter to the Select Committee on Estimates, it is not my affair.

Mr. Churchill

I extend my thanks to you, Sir, for so kindly enlightening us upon these matters and for the pleasure with which I have heard you this afternoon allow to pass from your lips the words "Prima facie" with so much relish.

Mr. Pickthorn

May I ask you two questions, Mr. Speaker? While respectfully agreeing, as of course we are all bound to do, with the Ruling that a Committee's procedure is for itself to decide, may I ask whether it is, in your view, free to decide to delegate quasi-judicial powers which this Committee is for the first time now being asked to exercise?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think the hon. Member ought to ask me this question. Is it for me to challenge what the House has decided?

Mr. Pickthorn

With respect, I was not asking whether anything which the House has decided should be challenged. What I was asking was whether this Select Committee will be entitled to delegate to a Sub-Committee these quasi-judicial powers. May I also ask you whether in Divisions like that which we have just had Members of the Committee concerned should or should not divide?

Mr. Speaker

I have said that the Select Committee on Estimates is the master of its own procedure. I have no power to tell it what to do. This House has directed the Select Committee on Estimates to report back to it. If we are not satisfied with the way in which the Select Committee has dealt with the matter, then we can reject the report and if we are satisfied we can accept it. For the moment it is remitted from our power, and the Select Committee on Estimates, which is master of its own procedure, must deal with the matter.

Mr. Henry Strauss

May I ask for enlightenment on the second point raised by my hon. Friend? I think that had the Question been, as it often is, that the matter be remitted to the Committee of Privileges, the custom would have been for members of that Committee not to take part in the Division. I do not know whether you can give any guidance on whether the same principle applies to the Committee that was the subject matter of the last Division. I am not for a moment suggesting that any hon. Member who took part in the Division knew that he did anything wrong. It is simply a question of the correct practice.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I think there is some misapprehension on the part of my hon. and learned Friend as to what the House has just done. It has not been remitted to the Committee on Estimates to decide any question of Privilege whatsoever. It has merely passed a resolution that the Committee on Estimates do inquire into the facts and report on the facts. They have, therefore, to do nothing further than inquire into what the facts are and they will report to the House.

Mr. H. Strauss

The point on which I asked for guidance is in no way answered by what my hon. Friend has just said. The question arises, Mr. Speaker, because you ruled that there is a Prima faciecase of breach of Privilege.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot direct a Member to divide or not to divide. Hon. Members must use their own judgment, and that is the answer.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Arising out of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), why on earth was it necessary for the Select Committee on Estimates to ask the leave of this House to investigate a subject which they were fully competent to investigate themselves? They have received no extra powers, as I see it, from this vote than they had before, and I think the time of the House has been wasted.

Mr. Speaker

That may be an argument against the Motion, but it is not a matter for me.

Mr. Albu

Unless my hon. Friend who is the chairman of the Committee on Estimates had raised the matter today, the question of Privilege would have fallen. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has."] Was it not my hon. Friend's duty to raise the matter immediately?

Mr. Speaker

I do not follow the hon. Member's point. The question certainly does not fall. When the Select Committee report on the facts, we can decide whether Privilege has been infringed or not.

Mr. Churchill

May I ask you, Sir, whether on future occasions when you rule that there is a Prima faciecase for remission to the Committee of Privileges it will be open to anybody in the House to move that instead a preliminary examination should take place by the Committee on Estimates or by any other body, and may it not become a very great cause of delay and impediment to the ordinary processes of Parliament?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

Arising out of that point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I submit to you that your announcement to the House is not that a Prima faciecase exists for referring the matter to the Committee of Privileges, but that a Prima faciecase of breach of Privilege has occurred, and that on that it is open to the Member who brings the matter before you to make such Motion as he thinks fit and it is for you to consider whether you will accept it? That is what happened on this occasion.

Mr. Speaker

That is exactly the case. Once I declare that there is a Prima facie case and then a Members moves a Motion, it is a debatable Motion to which one can move an Amendment if one chooses. Normally the matter goes direct to the Committee of Privileges. This time it was moved that it should go to another Committee. But that is a debatable Motion; both are.

Mr. Bowles

May I suggest that the debate is now over?

Mr. Eric Fletcher

Are we right in thinking that after the Select Committee on Estimates has made a report to this House in accordance with the Motion which the House has now carried, it will then be open to the House, if it so desires and if it thinks a breach of Privilege has occurred, to refer it again to the Committee of Privileges?

Mr. Speaker

It is for the House to decide; the House can do as it likes.

Mr. Ede

May I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, as a point of order that when we receive the report there may be a request for time to discuss it, and if time is found to discuss it the House will then be able to take such action on the report of the Committee of Estimates as it thinks fit?

Mr. Churchill

After any occasion on which you have ruled that there is a Prima facie case of breach of Privilege, it will always be open to the House, will it not, on the debatable Motion which follows for any Amendment to be moved to refer it to some other body?

Mr. Speaker

It always has been. As a matter of interest, on the procedure which I proposed, the House might like to know that a very distinguished Parliamentarian, Mr. A. J. Balfour, was very much in favour of the view which I have expressed.