§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I beg to move,That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message of the 19th May relating to the Civil List and other matters connected therewith:That the several Papers presented this day relating to the Civil List be referred to the Committee:That the Committee do consist of Twenty-two Members:That Mr. Alport, Mr. Assheton, Mr. Attlee, Colonel Banks, Mr. Benson, Miss Burton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Captain Crook-shank, Mr. Clement Davies, Captain Duncan, Mr. John Edwards, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Foot, Mr. Gaitskell, Sir Ralph Glyn, Mrs. Hill, Mr. Hurd, Sir Hugh O'Neill, Mr. Pearson, Mr. Stokes, Mr. Viant and Sir Herbert Williams be Members of the Committee:That the Committee have power to examine all witnesses who voluntarily appear before them, and to report to the House their observations on the matters referred to their consideration:That Five be the quorum.As the House will be aware, it has been customary, at the beginning of each reign, to appoint a Select Committee to consider the provision to be made for the maintenance of the honour and dignity of the Crown. According to tradition, the Government of the day have put before that Committee—that is, the Committee which we are asking the House to appoint today—their own proposals; and the Committee, after a very thorough examination of those proposals, have prepared a report for submission to the House.
Thereafter, the House is given an opportunity for full discussion of the Committee's own proposals. I hope, therefore, that the House will be ready to follow this time-honoured procedure on the present occasion.
The Select Committee which is proposed includes many right hon. and hon. Members of long experience and great authority in the House, and the House may feel assured that the deliberations of the Committee will be fully in keeping with the importance of the questions referred to. I hope, therefore, that the House will be willing to defer discussion of this Question until they have the report of the Select Committee before them.
§ Mr. Carmichael
May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why, in appointing this Committee of 21, he failed to 272 include a single Member from Scotland from the Opposition benches? I think he is well aware of the fact that we have experienced Members on this side of the House of long standing in the House, and I should like to have some information in view of the list presented.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I should like to press the question that has just been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael). Why is it that two Conservative Members from Scotland are appointed to this Committee and there is no Labour Member? Would the Chancellor consider adding the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) in order to strengthen this Committee?
I believe that in this matter Scottish Labour Members are entitled to have the same consideration for membership of this Committee as they are given in connection with other similar Committees appointed in the House. I should like also to ask the Chancellor whether he really thinks he himself should sit upon this Committee. I ask this because I believe it is necessary that hon. or right hon. Members who are appointed to this Committee should not be in a position to have prejudged the matter in one way or another.
I find from last Friday's Press that the Chancellor is reported as uttering a warning on the dangers of inflation and that he stated very clearly that there was no justification at all for further wage claims. In those circumstances, should not the Chancellor retire from this Committee and so solve the problem by allowing my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston to take his place?
§ Mr. John Rankin
I wish to support the protest which has been made by my two colleagues. I think it will be agreed generally that, so far as we can judge, the composition of the Committee is fairly representative of both parties and most sections within the House. That makes all the more glaring the fact that there is no representation whatsoever from the Scottish side of the Opposition benches. I hope that this is an oversight on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and that he will do his best to correct the omission.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee
I should like to explain that we, on our side, had invited 273 a Scots Member to serve on this Committee, but at the last moment he found it impossible to serve. I should really have liked a little longer opportunity to consider this, but the matter came on at rather a late stage last night and therefore the names went in. I do regret the omission of a Scottish Member from this side of the House. I wonder whether it is possible to hold the matter over for further consideration?
§ Mr. Butler
I can only speak again with the permission of the House. Everything governing the setting up of a committee of this sort is really ruled by traditional methods and I have not taken any action which is in any way different from that of my predecessors. For example, I have consulted throughout, to the best of my ability, with the Leader of the Opposition. I can only regret that he has felt in any way rushed or that any hon. Member should unfortunately have dropped out at the last moment.
In the circumstances, I think that hon. Members from Scotland will realise that hon. Members opposite are not selected by the Government. The selection is arranged through the ordinary channels, according to traditional methods, and if there has been any misunderstanding on this point I am sure hon. Members opposite regret it just as much as I do. In the circumstances I do not think we can go back on this matter; but I assure hon. Members from Scotland and elsewhere that we have before us all the normal procedure. The Committee has to report back to the House; then, at various stages of the discussion, an ample opportunity is given to every hon. Member to play his part, including hon. Members for Scotland.
In conclusion, I would say to the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), in relation to his reference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that I am not sitting on this Committee in any personal capacity. It has always been traditional for Chancellors of the Exchequer to take the Chair at these Committees. That is the reason I am there, and not because of any personal qualities or views. I am there merely by virtue of the office which I have the honour to hold.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
Might I press the right hon. Gentleman on the point raised by my right hon. Friend? We accept responsibility on the matter, but I should have thought that if the right hon. Gentleman got his main Motion through today and postponed the question of the actual composition of the Committee until tomorrow, that would be the best way out of the difficulty. We should all feel very sorry if our Scottish colleagues felt that their representation was not quite as they would wish it to be.
I press upon the Chancellor that it would be expedient to get through today his main Motion in relation to setting up the Committee, and if he would then be good enough to postpone the question of composition until tomorrow, discussions through the usual channels could take place which might result in meeting the request of our Scottish colleagues.
§ Mr. Butler
Speaking again with the permission of the House, in response to the request made by the right hon. Gentleman I would say that if the House agreed that this Motion should be passed we could certainly investigate such questions as individual personalities according to the ordinary procedure of the House; but I must say that it would have to be on the advice of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, in order to observe the usual decencies and traditions on these occasions.
§ Mr. Attlee indicated assent.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale
May I utter two sentences of protest about this form of regional blackmail that goes on with regard to almost every question that comes before this House? In point of fact, Lancashire has a bigger population and a bigger production than Scotland, and has taken a much bigger part in the affairs of this House. No Lancashire Member from this side of the House is on this Committee; but no one would think of protesting. Anyone looking at the map would realise that to select on a regional basis—by selecting various towns on the map—would be the worst possible way of selecting such a committee.
§ Mr. Rankin
I would point out to my hon. Friend that Scotland is not a region. Scotland is a nation.
§ Mr. Hale
It is quite true that there is no powerful committee advocating home rule for Lancashire; but I can see it coming in certain circumstances. All I wish to add is that if my many Scottish friends—for whom I have great personal affection—would once more set down a Motion that their Scottish Grand Committee should sit in Edinburgh, I should add an Amendment that it should sit there permanently.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message of the 19th May relating to the Civil List and other matters connected therewith:
That the several Papers presented this day relating to the Civil List be referred to the Committee:
That the Committee do consist of Twenty-two Members:
That Mr. Alport, Mr. Assheton, Mr. Attlee, Colonel Banks, Mr. Benson, Miss Burton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Captain Crookshank, Mr. Clement Davies, Captain Duncan, Mr. John Edwards, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Foot, Mr. Gaitskell, Sir Ralph Glyn, Mrs. Hill, Mr. Hurd, Sir Hugh O'Neill, Mr. Pearson, Mr. Stokes, Mr. Viant and Sir Herbert Williams be Members of the Committee:
That the Committee have power to examine all witnesses who voluntarily appear before them, and to report to the House their observations on the matters referred to their consideration:
That Five be the quorum.