HC Deb 17 December 1952 vol 509 cc1391-2
46. Mr. Hollis

asked the Prime Minister whether he will move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the possibilities of improvement in the House's conduct of its business.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)

I do not think that the appointment of such a Select Committee would serve any useful purpose at present.

Mr. Hollis

In view of the very wide number and variety of opinions which have been expressed by hon. Members in every quarter of the House on this very serious topic, will my right hon. Friend afford us opportunities for formal debate in which we can test one another's opinions, even though he thinks the time is not yet ripe for a Select Committee?

The Prime Minister

I think a debate on this subject might well be useful, but we have no time at present for it, and, in any case, all questions of that character must be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal.

Dr. King

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that nothing has taken place in the conduct of the House of Commons during the present Parliament which was not approved of by the Government in its own conduct in Opposition?

Major Legge-Bourke

Might I ask my right hon. Friend if he will reconsider his original answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis)? Is he aware that many of us feel that a Select Committee might be advantageous? Would he also bear in mind that one of the main factors in causing the present unsatisfactory state of affairs is the narrow division between the two parties in the House, and that that lies in the hands of the electorate?

Mr. Nally

Forgetting political differences of view, will the Prime Minister agree that there is widespread public disquiet and disgust with procedures in this House under which important matters are discussed in the early hours of the morning? If he is not prepared to make the gesture for the satisfaction of Members of Parliament, will he agree that the public are entitled to expect us to discuss at an early date the incongruities of our present Parliamentary procedures, and particularly the time of starting, at 2.30 p.m., when 90 per cent. of the people have done a good half-day's work?

The Prime Minister

I think all these things should be considered, and there is no reason why friendly discussions should not take place, not only through the usual channels but through any channels which may be open. But while such a close balance exists and such bitterly developed party differences rule, it might be very difficult to arrive at any advantageous solution to our present difficulties.