HC Deb 21 April 1953 vol 514 cc821-60

Lords Amendment: In page 3, line 5, at end, insert: (6) Nothing in this section shall compel the Commission, unless they think fit so to do, to dispose of any property, being money or being a claim for a debt or other monetary claim.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite)

I beg to move,"That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Whatever may be felt about other matters which we shall discuss during the course of our business today, I trust that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) may feel that the first of these Amendments raises a simple enough issue. This Amendment is linked with another Amendment made by their Lordships to subsection (1) of Clause 33, which provides that, for the purpose of this Act, property shall include claims for debts and other monetary claims. I think the House will see that, without this alteration, the Commission would be compelled to dispose of all debts and other monetary claims, indeed including any bank balances and even cash, arising out of their road haulage undertaking.

What this Amendment does is to make it clear—and the position is further clarified, I think the hon. Gentleman opposite will agree, by a Government Amendment which comes later to Clause 5—that the disposal of cash, claims for debts and other monetary claims is placed at the discretion of the Commission and the Disposal Board. I think the House will probably agree that, if that had not been done, the Commission would have been placed in a situation of some unfairness as regards monetary claims which have to be considered.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

I want to make one or two general observations on this, the first of these Amendments.

Mr. Speaker

I do not propose to select the Amendment to the Lords Amendment now before the House, but I propose to select later another one referring to the matter which I think would be more appropriate.

Mr. Hale

I want to make some general observations on the Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," and also a few observations about the position of back benchers—indeed, everyone—in this House. The procedure under which these Amendments are presented to the House is such as to lead us into great difficulty in rinding out the part of the Bill affected by the Amendments and what they are all about. The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to Clause 33, but it is not mentioned in these Amendments at all. Here it is only referred to by means of the page and the line, and throughout the whole of the debate in another place we have this same dilemma.

There were something like nine, 10 or 11 separate debates which took place in another place. We get a debate here interrupted by some statement on another question, and then the debate is resumed, but in another place a three-day debate took place on Second Reading and it was twice interrupted. There was a very long debate on the Committee stage, and another debate, running for a day or two, on the Report stage. I found out that in another place Amendments may be moved on Third Reading.

I spent hours looking for a particular Amendment which had been put on the Order Paper but which I could not find, and I suspected that it had been lost between another place and here. I wish to apologise for that unworthy suggestion, because I found that it arrived in the last few words of the report of the Third Reading debate. It would not be proper for us to comment on the procedure of another place. We can only regard it with that remote respect with which the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Coordination of Transport, Fuel and Power viewed the labours of their Lordships on the Committee stage, from afar.

We are in another difficulty. I find myself in some minor physical difficulty in balancing in my hands the Transport Bill, the Lords Amendments opened at two separate places—the place that we are discussing at the moment and the Amendment made on the Committee stage in another place which is related to the Amendment which we are discussing—the references to the Committee stage in the Lords and also to the Report stage, on which this matter was discussed, the Act itself and my notes. I therefore apologise, but I am doing my best.

There were two speeches on this matter by the noble Lord who was in charge in another place to which I want to refer. The noble Lord started by saying: This Amendment concerns quite a small point. Under the 1947 Act, the definition of 'property' excludes contractual rights. Now we are in the course of transferring property particularly to companies we wish the definition of 'property' to be rather wider. In particular, we wish it to include debts. That is, of course, particularly for formulating claims on the Transport Fund. It is not a large matter, but it is necessary for the new structure which the Bill has taken since it has reached this Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 12th March, 1953; Vol. 180, c. 1521.] Put like that, no doubt, it should be accepted, and one can well understand that we want to transfer certain things at the time when we are transferring an existing unit.

4.0 p.m.

On the Report stage, the same noble Lord, in a speech equally short, or nearly as short, on behalf of his noble Friend, said: Your Lordships may remember that at the end of the Committee stage we inserted in the interpretation Clause a definition of the word 'property.' This varied the definition in the 1947 Act, which excluded contractual rights. We put in the word 'property' to include claims for debts and other monetary claims, with a view to transferring, in the formation of companies and perhaps in some cases in connection with transport units, what amount to book debts. Having included money claims in the word 'property,' it might be taken that when the Commission have disposed of their road haulage property they would have to dispose of money debts—in other words, they might be under an obligation to hand over cash or bank balances which happen to be standing in the same Road Haulage Executive account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 18th March, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 61.] I am bound to say—I say so quite sincerely—that I do not follow that at all. I am sorry if I do not, but why one should say that there is anything mandatory about the provisions when one looks at the complicated provisions of Section 5 I do not know. I do not object to the form of words. I am not certain that the Amendment does any great harm to the Act, and if it can clarify what is not very clear anyhow, it may be a help.

But there seems something sinister and something unexplained in the Minister's explanation. If it is claimed that Section 1 in its effect is absolutely mandatory over all forms of property, if it is claimed that we have to dispose of everything whatever it may be, if it is the claim that, merely by including in the definition of property reference to book debts, we have to include all things like cash, what else is included? Minute books, records, proceedings, everything relating to that undertaking? Is it the argument of the Minister that when we have disposed of the whole of the transferable property, lorries, actual haulage property, in any given area, we have to transfer everything else?

I should have thought that two points arose on this. I say it with hesitation because their Lordships accepted this without comment, and there were 69 present, an impressive display and almost a record. No comment was made and I am reluctant to make comment. The noble Lord referred to the definition in the 1947 Act, but the definition is not incorporated in Section 1 and thus any Amendment of the definition could not affect Section 1. Secondly, when he merely says that under the use of the word "property" we might include "money," although he has his definition Clause in Section 33, this raises at once two matters of doubt. Legally, "money" is differently defined according to the sense in which it is used. "Money" in a will means something vastly and totally different from what it means in a settlement. Therefore, it is always a matter of doubt.

We want some explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary of how the conclusion has been arrived at that matters of this kind can be incorporated and whether the words are so mandatory and have left the House in such a mandatory position that the Minister or the Commission might find themselves compelled against their will to transfer assets they do not want to transfer outside the actual scheme of the Road Haulage Executive. The House is entitled to know how far the interpretation goes and what the advice of the Parliamentary draftsmen or the Law Officers is on the point of what would be compelled to be included in the absence of the Amendment.

Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)

We need some explanation about the Clause. It is a very limited Amendment, confined entirely to financial considerations, and the Clause itself is exceedingly tight and harsh as to what the Transport Commission can hold and what it must dispose of. The whole bias of the Clause is in favour of disposing of every conceivable thing that they can, and all the Amendment does is to say: Nothing in this section shall compel the Commission, unless they think fit so to do, to dispose of any property, being money or being a claim for a debt or other monetary claim. That is why we put down the Amendment with a view to certain things being held by the Commission. This is a very narrow modification, and, on the whole, the bias of the Clause is in favour of requiring the Commission to get rid of every conceivable thing it can. We are not satisfied that the Amendment ought to be so narrowly drafted, and we should be happier if the Minister would make it somewhat wider in its scope.

Incidentally, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). I do not want to go too far with this, otherwise I shall be out of order. This is an exceedingly difficult form of presentation to follow. Why we cannot have stated the page, the Clause, and the line, instead of having it in this form which gives us the maximum difficulty in following the Order Paper, I do not know. I suggest that the Government, or whoever is the Government's appropriate officer, should consider that point in future.

I hope the Minister will give some consideration to the request that we have made for further information, particularly about why the Amendment should be so narrow in form.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I wish I could start the proceedings by saying "Yes" to the right hon. Gentleman. This is couched in the usual form for the presentation of Amendments, and if there were to be any change, there is well-known machinery for inter-party consultation with the officers of the House to bring such matters under discussion.

The right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the whole bias of Clause 1 is to make it mandatory on the Commission to dispose of the property of the Road Haulage Executive. The difficulty which the Amendment is designed to resolve turns on the definition of "property." In the brief debate that we had some three weeks ago, the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) contrived to make a short speech about property on the Motion, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered." He said that we could rely upon the Upper House being very seriously disturbed about any threat to property, and he suggested, by inference, that a definition of "property" had first appeared in this Bill. That is not so.

There is a definition of "property" on page 138 of the Act of 1947, the Socialist Act. I agree that it is a most extraordinary definition, but it is not for me to explain exactly what went to the making of that part or any other part of that Act. It said that property does not include a mere contractual right, leaving it uncertain what "property" did include.

I was advised when, quite rightly, in another place an alteration was made to the interpretation Clause, to widen the meaning of "property" to include debts and monetary claims, so that, if desired, they could be transferred with the formation of companies, and perhaps in the case also of transport units, that then it became necessary to introduce protecting words so that the Commission would not be obliged to dispose of debts and other monetary claims. This is the sole purpose of the Amendment, and I can assure right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that there is nothing sinister at all in this, and that, if it were not incorporated, the Commission might find themselves obliged to dispose even of the bank balances, debts and cash balances, as the word "property" has been widened.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Speaking for myself, I find the Amendment raises as many difficulties as it purports to solve. I agree that we ought not to expect the Commission to sell money. Presumably if it did it would get the same amount back again. The moment we get beyond that point there is a difficulty. We have to deal with debts and other monetary claims, and I should like to know what they are. Debts I can understand, although I do not envy the position of a Commission that may have to carry debts while being deprived of the business in respect of which those debts arose. However that may be, this question of other monetary claims is much more serious.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Perhaps I might answer that question straight away. A claim for damages, for example, might arise. It is to protect the Commission against that sort of contingency that the words have been incorporated.

Mr. Mitchison

The right hon. Gentleman has answered in a somewhat unexpected form the question I was going to ask: do monetary claims include claims to damages? I am a very old-fashioned lawyer, and I always draw a distinction between monetary claims and damages, because I always understand a monetary claim to be a claim for some fixed amount and a claim for damages to be, putting it roughly, a claim for reparation, the amount to be ascertained afterwards.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Would my hon. and learned Friend tell the House whether for this purpose he draws a distinction between a claim for liquidated damages and a claim for unliquidated damages?

Mr. Mitchison

I am not drawing any distinction at the moment. I am trying to find out what the language means and I still do not quite understand it. Let us take the two cases to which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has just referred. Unliquidated damages might be regarded as a monetary claim, but what about the much more obvious and much commoner claim to damages which have not been liquidated and which remain to be ascertained? Is that or is that not a monetary claim?

There is another difficulty, as I am sure the Law Officers would tell us if they were here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] A monetary claim to damages is apt to be inextricably mixed up with claims on the other side of the balance sheet, that is to say, claims against the Commission and claims on behalf of the Commission arising out of the same matter and very often linked together only by the usual procedure of the courts, although sometimes more substantially by the nature of the case. We ought to be told, because this is no trivial matter, what exactly it is that the Commission are to be allowed, or encouraged as the case may be, to retain.

Let me put it very simply. Suppose the Commission have certain approved rights and contingent liabilities. To what extent are they to remain the persons liable and the persons entitled to enforce those claims, that is to say, if they choose to exercise their rights under the Clause?

There is still one other matter which troubles me. What the Commission have to dispose of by the subsection in question is property held by them for the purposes of so much of their undertaking as is carried on through the Road Haulage Executive. What about property which is held partly for that purpose and partly for another purpose? Let me represent to the right hon. Gentleman the sort of case which I have in mind. Let us assume that at a railway station there is a garage held and used partly for the purpose of storage and so on connected with the railway service, and partly for some road transport service. I am not clear whether or not the Commission are entitled under the Clause to retain property of that sort. I take exception to the proposed Amendment not so much for what it says but for the obscurity of the language and for the fact that it really does not deal with the actual question.

I could understand the inconvenience of the original literal wording, but if it had been sought to amend it and make it clear, something further than the Amendment would be required. It is required by way of definition of "monetary claim" and by way of dealing with the sort of point about damages that I mentioned just now. At the same time, the opportunity ought to be taken to deal with the type of property which the Commission ought reasonably to keep for the purpose of carrying on the railways and which may in fact be used both by the railway side of the undertaking and by the road haulage side of the Commission's present business.

I cannot but regard the Minister's reply as insufficient. In this respect I have the authority of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) to say that we regard it as so unsatisfactory and insufficient that unless it can be supplemented and clarified we shall feel obliged to divide on this proposal.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. H. Morrison

I am not making a speech. I want to ask the Minister whether he would be good enough to request the attendance of one of the Law Officers of the Crown, because we may be confronted with questions of law at any moment, and the House ought to be served?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am always ready to accede to any request put forward from the point of view of the House of Commons. I will undertake at some early date to ask one of my law colleagues to attend.

If the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends would read later Amendments before they make speeches on this Amendment, they would see that the points they have raised are in part taken care of. On page 6 of the Lords Amendments they will see an Amendment "Line 39, at end, insert …" It is the fourteenth Amendment from the Lords. It might be for the convenience of hon. Gentlemen if they did as I used to do in their place, number the Amendments so that when we refer to "Amendment No. 14" we all know what we are talking about.

This Amendment deals with property which may be used for the purposes of the Road Haulage Executive and which might, for example, be a railway arch. The Commission should not be obliged to dispose of a railway arch merely because the arch has been used by the Road Haulage Executive or for any other purpose. The arch is part of the railway and has always been so. I had many talks with the Commission when this possibility emerged, and as a result these words were designed to take care of that difficulty.

Mr. Mitchison

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I remind him that I was not talking about railway arches but about a garage or something of that sort which was used for two purposes. That is the point that troubles me. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any help?

Mr. Callaghan

May I make a suggestion to the Minister? We appreciate his saying that he would get the attendance of a Law Officer, especially as a Law Officer will be needed when we get to the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred. What is the possibility of postponing consideration of the Amendment? It would not delay the proceedings, and indeed might facilitate them, if the Minister withdrew the Motion for the consideration of this particular Lords Amendment and let us move to the next. We could come back to it at a later stage when a Law Officer is here who can advise us about the law.

May I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it really will be no use having the Law Officers here after we have passed from consideration of this Amendment? Similarly, our deliberations on the Amendment will be extremely delayed if we have to continue them until a Law Officer arrives to explain these points to us. Would it not, therefore, facilitate or speed up matters if the right hon. Gentleman withdrew the Amendment for the moment and postponed consideration of it? We could then take the matter up later after the Law Officers have arrived.

Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

Further to that question about the Law Officers, in my submission not only one Law Officer but both should be here. This Clause is an extremely difficult and curious one. In Clause 1 power is given to dispose of the property of the undertaking and this Amendment seeks to tone that down so that the Commission shall not be compellable to dispose of money. If the property of the undertaking is sold, it must be sold for money and that money must go to the Commission. What is to happen when they receive that money? How will this Amendment apply to that situation? It means that they will not be required to part with money received for disposing of their undertaking.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

This seems to me quite extraordinary. I was advising hon. Members opposite to read the Amendments and I suggested that a glance at page 6 of the Lords Amendments might help. It did not enter my head that hon. Members opposite had not read the Bill. They will see from Clause I of the Bill that the Minister may direct that any property held by the Commission at the passing of this Act, or thereafter obtained or appropriated by them, partly for or to the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking and partly for or to other purposes shall be treated, or shall not be treated, as property held by the Commission. … I could not agree to the suggestion by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). This is an exceedingly simple point. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is nothing sinister in it whatever. It is purely designed to help the Commission and it has no other purpose. If the House feels very seriously about it and is anxious to put this burden on the Commission, then the sooner we test the view of the House the better.

Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)

The Minister says that this is a very simple point. I submit that from the layman's point of view it is not simple. It may be simple to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and may be even simple to the Minister, but to others of us, who have looked at the Amendment and at the Bill very closely, it does not seem at all unreasonable to ask the Minister that the definition should be widened in order that one can include plant and stores which may be required for those parts of the Commission's undertaking which are retained by the Commission.

I would go even further. As a railwayman I have always looked to the complete co-ordination of road and rail. It is tragic that, in the development of collection and delivery services, and the correct concentration of those services at certain points, the railways have had to allow vehicles to stand in the open during the winter. That has meant that in the morning there has been considerable difficulty in starting. Sometimes one lorry has had to be towed by another round the yard to make it start. [Laughter.] Hon. Members smile, but it is a fact.

In the old days and even up to 1939 collection and delivery by the railways was done by horse and cart. Under the Transport Act, 1947, the British Transport Commission have modernised their collection and delivery services and the whole of the Home Counties service is now mechanised. That has been done because mechanisation is more efficient. It appears that hon. Members opposite want to go back to the old days of the horse and cart.

Mr. Speaker

I think that this is rather wide of the Lords Amendment.

Mr. Lindgren

I am sorry if I have been side-tracked by the interjections of hon. Members opposite. My suggestion is that these collection and delivery centres are very often in close proximity to garages which are now within the control of the Road Haulage Executive and which would be very valuable for the British Transport Commission in carrying out work which comes within the scope of the railways. That applies particularly in a number of the Home Counties. There ought to be an opportunity within this Bill to facilitate the use of these garages by the Commission.

If the Minister will give an assurance that that provision is within the Bill, then that satisfies me. I have never pretended to understand the legal phrasing of many Acts of Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman can assure me that that is the intention—and I cannot see it from a reading of the Lords Amendment to page 13, line 39, to which he referred—and if he says that there will be an opportunity for the Commission to retain stores, plant and garages for some other part of the Commission's work, then I am quite satisfied. I will take the Minister's word for it, even without an explanation from the Law Officers; but I think that we ought to have an assurance that it is there.

Mr. H. Morrison

Ask the Law Officers. They are here now.

Mr. Lindgren

I am delighted to see that both the Law Officers of the Crown have now arrived. I do not want to detract in any way from the manner in which the Minister has conducted the passage of this Bill. He has handled the Bill very efficiently from the Government's point of view, even though a little ham-handedly at times; but I think that we ought to have the opinion of the Law Officers as to whether or not there is within the definition in this Amendment an opportunity for the Commission to retain the type of asset to which I have referred for that part of the work which is left to them, and particularly to the Railway Executive. I do not think that it is an unreasonably request to ask that the Law Officers should at least give us the benefit of their definition in conjunction with that given by the Minister.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

The Minister said that this was an exceedingly simple point. If that is so and it is necessary to the Bill, why did it escape his attention when he drafted the Bill? We are now considering the Lords Amendments and I certainly did not find the interventions of my hon. and learned Friends the Member for Ketter-ing (Mr. Mitchison) and the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) at all simple on this point.

As far as I understand, the Law Officers of the Crown were not consulted on this question of legal definition. That omission should be explained. It is all very well for the Law Officers to turn up after being sent for. So far we have had a technical discussion which is of interest to lawyers, but the Law Officers do not turn up and apparently they do not do so because—reading between the lines of the Minister's statement—we gather that they were not consulted. I should like to know why the Law Officers are regarded by the Minister as superfluous and why they are not consulted on a matter of legal definition.

We should like the Law Officers to direct our attention to the technical points of law which have been raised by my hon. and learned Friends and to give us guidance. We recognise that that is very difficult because they have not heard the speeches from this side of the House and it is now necessary for someone to repeat to them the criticisms which have been made. I hope that we may now have the benefit of the advice of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General so that those of us with lay minds, who have not understood the interventions of my hon. and learned Friends, may now understand whether this Lords Amendment is necessary or not.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Now that the Attorney-General is here, I should like to put this point to him, as he was not here before.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

That does not entitle the hon. and learned Member to speak a second time without the leave of the House.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

With respect, I did not make a speech, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I rose to supplement the request of my hon. Friend, and I said only two or three words.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have only just come into the Chamber, but I understood from what the hon. and learned Member said that he had been called before. Perhaps I am wrong and I apologise.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

There is a problem which I wish to put to the Attorney-General, and in order that he might inform his mind, I should like him to look first at Clause 1. He will see in that Clause a provision which compels the Commission to dispose of its property. In order to limit that provision an Amendment is now before us from another place which excludes money and various other matters. The first problem which I should like the Attorney-General to consider is this: if money is to be excluded, what becomes of the situation when the property of the Commission has been sold and has been converted into money? The Lords Amendment obviously means that the Commission will not be compelled to dispose of that money.

The Minister says, however, "That is all very well, but under Clause 5 (2): 'The Minister may give directions to the Commission, as respects any property held by them for the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking, requiring them to dispose of that property otherwise than as or as part of a transport unit, and the Commission shall comply with any such directions.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd rose

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Let me complete my point. The Minister is seeking by this Amendment to cut down that power in Clause 5 because the Amendment controls the provision in Clause 5 to which I have just alluded. It says: (6) Nothing in this section shall compel the Commission, unless they think fit so to do, to dispose of any property, being money or being a claim for a debt or other monetary claim. Therefore, the right which the Minister has told the House he now has to defeat any recalcitrance on the part of the Commission is itself defeated by the provisions of this Lords Amendment, and as soon as the property of the Commission is disposed of and becomes converted into money it falls within the ambit of the Amendment, and the Minister can do nothing about it, because if the Amendment is passed any right to do so is put out of his power.

Mr. A. Hargreaves (Carlisle)

The Amendment could be helpful to the purpose of the Bill, but I wonder if it is sufficiently wide. I think that the Minister was ill-advised in making his suggestion that if we did not agree with him completely we should take this matter to a Division and dispose of it without delay. That is a little unworthy after all the tributes paid from all parts of the House to those people who have endeavoured to improve the Bill once its principle was established.

I wish to put a simple point. The Commission enters into arrangements with traders in regard to claims which run both ways—from the Commission and from the trader. I wonder if the Amendment is sufficiently wide to take those agreements into account; they represent money or claims on either side. One of the arrangements is that the trader offers his goods to the Commission for conveyance by the Road Haulage Executive at certain rates; and arising from that conveyance it is known that over a period of time certain claims for loss, damage, breakage, etc., are due to the trader from the Commission.

As I say, an agreement is entered into between the Commission and the trader for repayment to the trader of a proportion of the rates which have been agreed upon between the two for conveyance as an assessment of the loss, damage, breakage, etc., of the goods being conveyed by the Commission. That represents an asset, a claim, a sum of money as between the Commission and the trader. The important point is that it is a continuing agreement between the two which—this is what I should like to direct the Minister's attention to—may not terminate by the disposal envisaged in Clause 1 of the Bill. It is a continuing arrangement between the trader and the Commission which is advantageous to both and represents an actual money advantage, a claim advantage, to both.

Recognising, as I do, the value of this Amendment from another place to the general purpose of the Bill, I wish to ask the Minister, in line with the viewpoint which he has taken towards the suggestions that have been made at all stages of the Bill, to take cognisance of that series of agreements at present in force between traders and the Commission, and which will continue to run. I ask that because, as I see it, those arrangements, claims, etc., are not picked up or specifically brought within the purport of the Clause by this Lords Amendment. This is an increasingly important development in the transit arrangements between the Commission and the trader, and I do not want it to be overlooked in relation to the Amendment which the House is now considering.

I urge the Minister to widen, if necessary, the purpose of this Amendment, to give consideration to the matters which I have put before the House, which I know are not of general knowledge. They are, however, practical arrangements which suit both parties and which have been entered into between the trader and the Commission, and ought to represent a valuable asset to the Commission and to the trader. I should like to be assured that they will not be excluded from the purpose of this Amendment.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

Are we not to hear from the Attorney-General following the request that has been made by hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House that he should listen to the argument and then give us the benefit of his great wisdom? Of course, it is almost impossible for him to do so when he comes into the House knowing nothing about the matter under discussion, and has to sit on the Front Bench and be advised by the Minister.

It is a scandalous state of affairs when we have a legal point of this kind, when we have no Law Officers here at the beginning of the debate, and now that they are here—at least the Attorney-General is here; the Solicitor-General was here but he has now gone—neither is able to tell us anything about the matter. We have heard five or six speeches, most of them from lawyers on this side of the House; my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), among others, has already given us his point of view. Now we want to know the answers to the questions which have been asked, and this is the opportunity for the Attorney-General to shine and to show how brilliant he is. He has come here, but apparently he does not intend to say anything. Does he know nothing about the matter?

A number of speeches from hon. Members opposite have been made from a brief supplied by civil servants. Since we started considering this Bill we have suffered from speeches by hon. Members who know nothing at all about this industry. The Minister has been in a 'bus and has driven a car, and that is about all he knows about transport. He has, no doubt, learned a little since he has been in office and he is doing very well; if he stays in the job for another five or 10 years he may learn more. But I want to put it on record so that it can be noted in HANSARD that the Attorney-General is failing in his duty to satisfy this House on a legal point.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not right that when a question has been put specifically to a Law Officer and he is asked for an answer, he ought to give the answer?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not know whether it is right or not. It is certainly not a point of order.

Mr. S. Silverman

Whether or not it is a point of order is a matter for you to decide, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I am sure the House will accept your Ruling without question. But if it is not a point of order it is a point of common sense. There are duties upon the Government, and one of them is at least to make the legislation for which they ask intelligible to the House of Commons in the first place. That is what they have most plainly failed to do.

I should like to begin by making a confession. Before the debate started, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) drew my attention to this Amendment and, having read it on the Paper, I said "Well, that seems plain enough." Since then I have had the disadvantage of hearing two explanations from the Government Front Bench. What seemed plain when it appeared out of any context on the Order Paper has now become completely meaningless. I should think, to anybody in the House, and conspicuously to the Minister himself.

At an earlier stage in this discussion attention was drawn to the absence of the Law Officers of the Crown. The Law Officers are both old Members of the House of Commons and are very respectful to its traditions. Hardly a minute elapsed from the time that attention was called to their absence, when they both arrived in the Chamber. One of them has left since.

I am sure they will not think that I am disrespectful to them or to their high office when I remind them that when people complained of their absence they did not do so because they wanted to gaze admiringly at the Law Officers across the Floor of the House. They wanted them here to explain matters which the Government had conspicuously failed to explain. There is no point in them coming in and listening to what goes on, and then walking out leaving us all as mystified as we were when they came in, unless indeed it is an act of prudence on their part, believing that any attempt to clarify this completely inexplicable jumble of Amendments and definitions would leave confusion worse confounded.

4.45 p.m.

Where are we at the moment? In the first place, we have Clause 1 of the Bill as it left this House, which lays a duty upon the Road Haulage Executive to get rid of its property. That was plain enough, at any rate. It was completely unlimited. There was only one thing that this Government wanted the Road Haulage Executive to do with the property, and that was to get rid of it to anybody at any price as quickly as possible. It may not have been good politics or good sense, but at any rate we all knew what it meant.

Having got so far, we read the interpretation Clause at the end of the Bill and we found that it was not quite such plain sailing as it had been when Clause 1 was not interpreted by the interpretation Clause. At that point it was said that property does not include a mere contractual right. So there is some modification of the duty on the Road Haulage Executive to get rid of its property quickly, not to include a mere contractual right.

That was perhaps not quite so intelligible as the uninterpreted Clause at the beginning of the Bill had been, but at any rate it was capable of understanding—until the Earl of Selkirk got hold of it in another place, and then he decided that it was not good enough. He wanted to limit it still further. He wanted on page 40, line 42, to insert at the end: Provided that, in this Act, 'property' includes claims for debts and other monetary claims. Having first decided that it shall not include mere contractual rights, it is now said that it is to include claims for debts, which I should have thought were contractual rights, and other monetary claims, which I should have thought were contractual rights. That was added to the Bill in another place.

Mr. Callaghan

What date was that?

Mr. Silverman

It was on 12th March. 1953, in column 1521, of the House of Lords OFFICIAL REPORT.

This Amendment to which I have just referred is on the Order Paper, but it is not the one which we are now dealing. We are, of course, bound to refer to it, as the Minister did, because the Amendment with which we are dealing is said to be consequential upon it. That is what we are asked to understand.

Having decided first that the Road Haulage Executive shall sell everything, and then that they shall sell everything except contractual rights, and then sell everything except contractual rights except claims for debts and other monetary claims—one fits the one exception inside the other exception—in consequence of all that we are asked to decide now that Nothing in this section shall compel the Commission, unless they think fit so to do, to dispose of any property, being money or being a claim for a debt or other monetary claim. The form of the Amendment is remarkable. If people do things or do not do things because they think fit so to do or do not think fit so to do, no question of compulsion arises. This Amendment says: Nothing in this section shall compel the Commission, unless they think fit so to do … At the best, the words "unless they think fit so to do" should not be in the Amendment, whatever it means. That is surely quite clear. The Amendment then adds another exception, to be interwoven somehow or other with the pattern of exceptions and exceptions within exceptions, and further exceptions within that, namely: … money or … a claim for a debt or other monetary claim. This is the British Parliament attempting to deal in an intelligible, if not responsible, way with the property of the British people. It may be that this is as simple as the Minister says, or that he thinks it is; but no other hon. Member, at the end of the past half hour's discussion, has the faintest notion what this is about.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South) indicated dissent.

Mr. Silverman

Nobody has yet said they have. So far the noble Lord has failed conspicuously to offer any enlightenment to the rest of us. He has heard many distinguished and intelligent Members of the House—Members who monopolised the discussion before this Bill went to the other place—confess that they do not know what this Amendment means. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) does not know what it means. It may be that there are other hon. Members who are more intelligent, but there are not very many. I am not sure that the noble Lord is one of them, and I am certain that the Minister is not.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison); my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who has spent his whole life in the transport industry, and a number of other hon. Members who have no great interest in or knowledge of the transport industry but whose profession is the interpretation and application of Acts of Parliament in so far as the courts are called upon to understand and apply them, have all said that they do not understand this Amendment.

They have asked for explanations from the Government and the Minister has done his rather inadequate best to answer the points raised but he has succeeded only in confusing us much more than we were confused at the beginning. The Attorney-General is now here. Will not he help us? Will not he come to the rescue of his colleague? That is why we asked him to come. If he does not want to afford any assistance to hon. Members on this side of the House, will he not at least come to the rescue of the Minister—a good man struggling in adversity, as he has been for so long—and help him out?

I quite appreciate that the Attorney-General may not have had very much time to consider this matter. The Minister, in his simplicity, thought that this was a simple point; that is why he did not ask the Law Officers about it. We have all been doing our best for the Attorney-General. We have been enabling him to read all the Amendments and be told about the speeches which have been made, so that he can be informed on everything that has taken place this afternoon. He has a very quick mind and I have no doubt that, as the point is so simple and so easily understood and explained, he will now explain it to us so that we can begin to understand what all this business is about.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Are we not to have a reply from the Attorney-General? Surely the House is being treated in an extraordinary and quite unaccustomed manner. We are discussing what is essentially a point of legal definition—the definition of "property" which the Commission shall be permitted or not permitted to dispose of. After listening to this discussion and having heard my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) it is quite clear to non-lawyers like myself that complicated legal questions are involved. What is not plain to me is what are the answers to those questions.

We started this debate without any Law Officers of the Crown upon the benches opposite. It was at the invitation of my right hon. Friends, through the Minister, that the two Law Officers were sent for. After an interval of some minutes they both arrived. At first they sat rather coyly at the end of the Front Bench, apparently not able to pluck up courage to join the debate, but after a little further invitation—although the Solicitor-General's heart failed him and he slunk out of the Chamber altogether—the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General came up into the front rank.

I do not share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) that the Attorney-General is either ignorant of this point or unable to understand the legal issue which is involved. It is evident that he has given it careful study, no doubt when the Bill was being drafted, and certainly when it was proceeding through the House of Lords. I appeal to him to join with us in understanding that it will not merely illuminate but abbreviate this debate if he now gives us the benefit of his knowledge and answers the legal questions which have been asked, particularly by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne.

I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman now knows what are the questions. I am sure he knows the answers, and though they may be simple in the view of the Minister, this is an examination of an Amendment not just by the Minister but by the House of Commons. Its meaning should surely be made clear, therefore, particularly for those who are not lawyers, before hon. Members make up their minds about it.

I am sure that the Government would not like to expose themselves to the criticism that they are attempting to push through this part of the Bill without due consideration or understanding. I therefore appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman to give us this afternoon the benefit of the knowledge and lucidity with which he is so plainly most fully equipped.

Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)

I hope we shall have the benefit of the opinion of the Attorney-General. The House of Commons are being treated in a very unkind way. The suggestion was properly put to the Minister that the Law Officers of the Crown should be here, and he promised to send for them. They arrived, though one has since left. I think it is without precedent that a Law Officer should arrive here for the specific purpose of giving his opinion and should then not give it. After all, the legal profession is used to giving its opinion quickly; many of its members are asked to read a brief in court without any previous briefing by solicitors.

When I first saw this Lords Amendment I was much attracted by it, although I should have liked to shorten it a little so that it read: Nothing in this section shall compel the Commission, unless they think fit so to do, to dispose of any property and finished there. It would then have been quite a good Amendment. There is a matter of real doubt here, and since we have had so many legal and lay opinions as to what this Amendment means, in common courtesy the Attorney-General should give us his opinion.

The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald): I cannot possibly refrain from responding to such an invitation as that which I have just received. The suggestion that I was being unkind to the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) is one which would certainly bring me to my feet, if nothing else would.

I find it very difficult to see what legal question arises here. There is no doubt of one thing—that without this Amendment to Clause 1 the Commission were required to dispose of everything which could be described as property. Now, property in its ordinary meaning may well be held to include debts or monetary claims or even cash received from sales, and the policy is that they should not be compelled to dispose of such things.

5.0 p.m.

It was, therefore, necessary to do two things—first of all, to make sure that the definition of property in the Act was clearly laid down as including those things and, then, to say that they should not be included in the property which the Commission were bound to dispose of. As I understand, that is what has been done. When the word "being" is used, it means any property which is money or is a claim for a debt or other monetary claim but not any other property. I do not see any difficulty about that at all. If I have kept the House waiting, I must apologise, but I was waiting until I heard something which seemed to be a doubtful question of law and I had no intention of intervening at all except on such a point. When that heart-rending appeal was made to me. however. I felt that I must intervene.

Mr. Mitchison

May I ask the Attorney-General a question before he sits down? I am bound to seek his knowledge in these matters because I am rather puzzled. Is a claim for damages in any circumstances an "other monetary claim"? Perhaps I may give the kind of case I have in mind. Suppose there has been an accident to a servant of the Commission and, in the circumstances of the case, the Commission have some right to claim for the loss of his service. Is that one of the rights which the Commission may retain?

May I put it in another way? There are rights and obligations which can be disposed of in connection with transport units or to companies. Do the "other monetary claims" and such rights and obligations as can be attached to motor units or sold to companies, if the Commission think fit. cover the lot?

The Attorney-General

The answer is that it is, provided that a great legal authority such as the hon. and learned Member is able to advise the person in the case in point that, as a matter of law, he has a claim for "debt or other monetary claim." It depends on the circumstances.

Mr. Mitchison

The Commissioners, not the individual.

The Attorney-General

Certainly. But that must be decided in the particular circumstances. We cannot give an answer that it would be so in every conceivable case. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows much more about that branch of the law than I do and if. as a matter of law, one can say that there is a claim for "debt or other monetary claim," it certainly would be included.

Mr. Mitchison

May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman this other question? In the advice which he has given, does a monetary claim mean a claim in money or is it used in a sense in which it is used for other purposes—a claim to a fixed sum of money? Is it not possible to clarify the matter?

The Attorney-General

I do not see any reason why both should not be included from the point of view of the policy in the Clause.

Mr. S. Silvennan

May I put to the Attorney-General what I hope is a simpler question? Would he care to explain the meaning of the words "unless they think fit so to do"? If they do not mean anything, which appears to be the case, does he not propose to put down an Amendment to leave them out?

The Attorney-General

I do not think they do anything more than make it perfectly clear.

Mr. Callaghan

I must say that that seems to be a rather inadequate answer to a perfectly good point. The Lords Amendment says that the Commission shall not be compelled to do certain things, and then words are inserted to the effect "unless they see fit so to do."

Mr. Silverman

In which case they can be compelled.

Mr. Cailaghan

I take it that that is the logical meaning. Certainly these seem to be the sort of words which draftsmen love to put into Bills without any regard to the sense.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is this a second speech?

Mr. Callaghan

It is not a second speech. If the noble Lord cares to make a first speech of his own, we shall be glad to listen to him. Hon. Members opposite apparently intend to run the proceedings this evening. If they do, we shall have more words to say. The only time I have been on my feet during the debate so far has been to ask the Minister to consider postponing the Lords Amendment. He did not do so and we had to await the arrival of the Attorney-General, who very kindly gave us his advice. This is the first speech I have made on the substance of the Lords Amendment and it will be the last speech I shall make on the substance of the Lords Amendment.

Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)

Thank goodness.

Mr. Cailaghan

If the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) wishes to be relieved of hearing more speeches from me, he had better leave the Chamber, because I fear he will hear more from me this evening. We are grateful to the Attorney-General for coming to assist us. He has made one thing abundantly clear—and I do not know whether he was fully conscious of the importance of his words when he uttered them. He said that this enabled the Commission to retain no other property than that included in the Lords Amendment.

That is precisely the advice which we wished to get clear and which he has now cleared up for us. Perhaps I am wrong, but I am under that distinct impression—that the Commission are unable to keep any other property. What about the other Clauses? There is nothing in the other Clauses either, unless it is property which, as the Minister pointed out earlier, is jointly held for the purpose of the road haulage undertaking and some other undertaking.

The Minister referred us to a later Amendment. I must say that I thought he was trying to be a bit of a "Smart Alec" when he suggested that we had not read the Amendments, because I can assure him that a number of us have spent a very long time on them. The Amendment to which he referred us was in the middle of page 6 and it deals, as I understand it—and I am not a lawyer—with property, which is mainly land, which is jointly held for two purposes: it may be owned by the Commission and used partly for the road haulage undertaking and partly for the railways.

But that is not the point I am discussing. I fully understand that point because I can assure the Minister that I have lived with the Bill for almost as long as he has. I fully comprehend that under subsection (5), and particularly the last paragraph of subsection (5), the Commission are able to hold such property, but what the hon. and learned Gentleman made clear—unless he wishes to go back on that advice—is that they cannot retain any other property.

This is our quarrel with the Clause. I agree that the Commission are being compelled to get rid at a substantial loss of a large number of roadworthy vehicles which are now operating at a respectable profit, and which are making a profit this year in spite of the best efforts of the Minister to prevent them from doing so. Although they are being required to get rid of those vehicles, they are, nevertheless, keeping a large number of other vehicles. They are keeping all the vehicles in the collection and delivery service of the railways, which number some thousands, and, as the Bill is now drafted, they are enabled to keep a large number of other vehicles as a result of the Amendments which the Minister has made.

The point about which I am dissatisfied, and the reason why my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said we were not satisfied with this Lords Amendment, as it stands, is simply that the Bill, and this Lords Amendment in particular, are so narrowly drawn that the Commission have no right to make over to the collection and delivery services of the railways any stores which may be in the possession of the Road Haulage Executive and which they would like to make over to them for the purpose of helping to run more efficiently those thousands of vehicles which belong to the railways.

Under the Clause as it stands—and the Lords Amendment makes it no wider— they are required to dispose of every spanner, every fitment, everything which the Road Haulage Executive has. and—

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member is making a series of rather spectacular allegations. He does, I hope, recollect that the Commission are to retain a substantial number of vehicles. Under Clause 4 they can use the company structure for the part they are retaining. With the company structure, of course, go those things that a company possess, spares and all the other things the hon. Gentleman has been so glibly talking about.

Mr. Callaghan

The Minister really cannot get away with that. He knows as well as I do that there are a great many spares and stores of one sort and another that are in the possession of the Commission today that have a fairly considerable value, and that they may not want to make over to a company that they are going to form under another Lords Amendment to be considered later.

Suppose, for example, we have a company to which an adequate number of spares is made over in a particular area. What then are the Commission to do with the spares, stores, land, accommodation, office buildings and the rest of it that they may not desire to sell as part of a transport unit—I am not using the word "company," be it noted—which may, indeed, not be in an area where they are forming a company? What are they to do with all that? The answer at the moment is that they have to dispose of it as chattels. They have to get rid of it.

The Minister keeps on boasting that he wishes, by this Bill, to make it possible for the small man to return to the industry, and to sell off units of one vehicle, two vehicles, three vehicles, and so on. Suppose that in Cardiff, in my constituency, he decides, as it is finally within his power to do, that the Commission are to dispose of and break up a very efficient unit into three-vehicle lots and sell them off. Let me tell the Minister what I think he already knows—I have mentioned it before—that in my constituency there happens to be a most efficient stores depot of British Road Services in which there are stores and spares of every description that are necessary for the large unit that exists today. No man who intends to buy one vehicle or two vehicles or three vehicles will buy that storage depot. It is not within his means to do so, in any case.

Therefore, it will not go into the company the Minister so glibly—I retort to him—so glibly tries to assure us will ensure adequate disposal of those stores, spares and other property. This property will be excluded from the transport unit, and it will not be included in the company. It falls between the two, and what the Commission will be reduced to doing under this Lords Amendment as it stands will be to sell those spares, this carefully accumulated store of materials bought during a period of comparatively high prices for particular purposes, as scrap, junk, for any value they can get.

That is the charge against the Minister. It is one he has not faced up to, and it is for that reason that we are thoroughly dissatisfied with the Lords Amendment as it stands. We thank the Attorney-General for making it clear. The Minister's spite against the Commission is such that he will not allow them even to retain spares and stores that they could retain for the benefit of other parts of their undertaking; but he insists they should be sold at junk prices, for whatever value can be got. He says, by this Lords Amendment, that all they can retain is the actual cash they have got in the till. We believe it to be a gross discrimination against the Commission, and another instance of the Minister's vendetta against them. For that reason we shall divide against this Lords Amendment.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Cecil Poole (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I do not wish to detain the House on this matter, but as I listened to the debate, and particularly to the legal arguments, I understood why, the other night, in my sleep, I was making a most impassioned speech in the House of Commons which brought me into conflict with the Chair and necessitated my removal by the responsible Officer of the House.

Something may have become clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), but nothing has become clear to me. I have read every word that has been spoken on this Bill since Second Reading, because, unfortunately, I was in bed at the time of the Committee and Report stages, and my reading was the HANSARD report of those proceedings. I have read all the proceedings on the Bill in another place, too. I now find myself in this dilemma: I do not know what is the definition of property. Having listened to the Attorney-General it seems to me that there are now two definitions of what is property in this Bill.

I have no legal background at all, for which I am very thankful, but as a simple man I find that on 12th March the Earl of Selkirk, during the Committee stage on the Bill in another place, successfully moved an Amendment on behalf of the Government, saying that he wished the definition of property to be rather wider. He said: In particular, we wish it to include debts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 12th March, 1953; Vol. 180, c. 1521.] Property, then, was to include debts. An Amendment was moved in another place to enable it to include debts.

However, on 18th March, on the Report stage in another place, the Government moved an Amendment, which we are now asked to approve, to exclude debts from the definition of property. There may be a very simple explanation which the Minister can understand, but I cannot understand why, on 12th March, it was necessary to move an Amendment to include debts and now we are being troubled with this Lords Amendment which seeks specifically to exclude money or claims for debts or other monetary claims.

The Government's record on this Bill has been lamentable. The proposals of the Bill were initially contained in a White Paper. If the White Paper be the father of the Transport Bill, the father does not know its own child now. It seems as if the Government did not know what they really wanted. On 12th March, after all the tortuous proceedings through which this Bill had gone in this House and in another place, the Government sought one thing; it was necessary, six days later, to move an Amendment undoing what they have sought to do on 12th March. If I am wrong I shall be very happy to be put right, but it seems to me that under the interpretation Clause property includes debts, and the Earl of Selkirk said he wanted it to include debts, and now we are being troubled with a Lords Amendment to enable the Commission to exclude them if they think fit. The whole thing leaves me more amazed than when we started this debate an hour and a half ago.

Question put, "That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. None of us heard any voices in support of this Lords Amendment.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The Chair gives what it anticipates is the view of the House, irrespective of the noise.

Mr. Callaghan

If no one says "Aye," Mr. Deputy-Speaker, surely it is not possible to say that the "Ayes" have it. There was no utterance of any sort from the other side of the House.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I did not say the "Ayes" had it. I said that I thought the "Ayes" had it. I may prove right or wrong.

Mr. Callaghan

With great respect, are we to take it that if no one calls "Aye" on an Amendment it is still possible to declare that the "Ayes" have it?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Oh, yes. When there has been no voice of any kind I have often announced a decision, without a soul speaking.

Mr. Silverman

Surely the immemorial practice is to collect the voices each way, and if there is a conflict to call upon the House to divide, "Ayes" to the right, "Noes" to the left, and so on. But if there is no conflict when the voices are collected, surely the decision ought to go in favour of those people who shouted, and as nobody in the House shouted anything except "No" the decision should go to them.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I definitely shouted "Aye."

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

(seated and covered): On a point of order. I respectfully submit to you, Sir Charles, that, no votes having been recorded for the "Ayes," the Motion was automatically lost by the declaration of the "Noes." There would be no other method by which the Government could declare their intention of not pressing the Motion if the Opposition had said they were going to take it to a Division, except by not voting for this Amendment, which is the course they took.

In those circumstances, I do venture respectfully to submit to you that, the Motion having been lost it cannot be put again, and that in putting the Motion again we are reversing the immemorial practice of the House, which is that mistakes cannot be corrected, that if in Committee an Amendment is wrongly put by mistake on the part of the Government, or if the Minister in charge says "Aye" when he should have said "No," there is no method of correction except by putting the whole matter on the Order Paper again and raising it in the ordinary way. I suggest that the House has no power to take a second Division.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The Whip on the Government Front Bench, the hon. Member for Croydon, West (Mr. R. Thompson), said "Aye," although certainly very quietly.

Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)

(seated and covered): On a point of order. You yourself admitted that nobody had said "Aye." You said that you anticipated what might be the decision in the end, but you admitted that nobody had said "Aye." In those circumstances, I submit, with great respect, that the Division is over and that the "Noes" have won.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Even if "Aye" had not been said I could say I thought the "Ayes" had it, and the "Noes" could challenge my opinion. It has been done scores of times. The hon. Gentleman

himself has, I am sure, called Divisions without anyone speaking on either side.

Mr. Bowles

My answer to you there, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is that when I was in the Chair quite often the Opposition of that time said that they had shouted "No" when they had not, and over and over again I was able to show how they were contradicting themselves. I have not set a precedent for what you are now doing.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is a different point, of course. The vote must follow the voices. That is one of the rules.

Mr. Burden (seated and covered)

On a point of order. It is quite untrue to say that hon. Members on this side did not say "Aye." I and others shouted "Aye."

Mr. S. Silverman (seated and covered)

On a point of order. You having admitted that there were, in fact, no voices for the "Ayes," Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you should not have declared "The Ayes have it."

Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)

(seated and covered): On a point of order—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It has been reported to me that after the order had been given, "Lock the doors," a number of Members got through, which is irregular. Therefore, we have to have the Division again.

Question again put, "That the House does agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 289: Noes, 266.

Division No. 127] AYES [5.30 p.m.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Birch, Nigel Channon, H.
Alport, C. J. M. Bishop, F. P. Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Black, C. W. Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Boothby, R. J. G. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J Bossom, A. C. Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.
Arbuthnot, John Bowen, E. R. Cole, Norman
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Colegate, W. A.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Boyle, Sir Edward Conant, Maj. R. J. E.
Baker, P. A. D. Braine, B. R. Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Baldwin, A. E. Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.) Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C
Banks, Col. C Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.
Barber, Anthony Brooman-White, R. C. Crouch, R. F.
Barlow, Sir John Browne, Jack (Govan) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)
Baxter, A. B. Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Cuthbert, W. N.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Bullard, D. G. Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Davidson, Viscountess
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Burden, F. F. A. Deedes, W. F.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Campbell, Sir David Digby, S. Wingfield
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Carr, Robert Dodds-Parker, A. D.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Cary, Sir Robert Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA
Donner, P. W. Keeling, Sir Edward Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Doughty, C. J. A Kerr, H. W. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Lambert, Hon. G. Profumo, J. D.
Drayson, G. B. Lambton, Viscount Raikes, Sir Victor
Dugdale, Rt.Hn. Sir Thomas (Richmond) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rayner, Brig. R.
Duncan, Capl. J. A. L. Langford-Holt, J. A. Rees-Davies, W. R
Duthie. W. S. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K Renton, D. L. M.
Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M. Leather, E. H. C. Robinson, Roland (Blackpoel, S.)
Erroll, F. J. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Robson-Brown, W.
Fell, A. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Finlay, Graeme Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Roper, Sir Harold
Fisher, Nigel Lindsay, Martin Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F Linstead, H. N. Russell, R. S.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Llewellyn, D. T. Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Ford, Mrs. Patricia Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton) Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Fort, R. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Foster, John Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morcambe & Lonsdale) Longden, Gilbert Scott, R. Donald
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell Low, A. R. W. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Shepherd, William
Gammans, L. D. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Garner-Evans. E, H. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Lyttelton, Rt. Hen. O. Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Glyn, Sir Ralph McAdden, S. J. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Godber, J, B. McCallum, Major D. Snadden, W. McN.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Macdenald, Sir Peter Soames, Capt. C.
Gough, C. F. H. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Spearman, A. C. M.
Gower, H. R. McKibbin, A. J. Speir, R. M.
Graham, Sir Fergus Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Gridley, Sir Arnold Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Grimond, J. Maclean, Fitzroy Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Macleod, Rt. Hon. lain (Enfield, W.) Stevens, G. P.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Harden, J. R. E. Macpherson, Nialt (Dumfries) Storey, S.
Hare, Hon J. H. Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Harris, Reader (Heston) Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E. Studholme, H. G.
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Markham, Major S. F. Summers, G. S.
Harvey, Air Cdre. A V. (Macclesfield) Marlowe, A. A. H. Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Marples, A. E. Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)
Hay, John Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Head, Rt. Hon. A H. Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton) Teeling, W.
Heald, Sir Lionel Maude, Angus Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Heath, Edward Maudling, R. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Higgs, J. M. C. Mellor, Sir John Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Molson, A. H. E. Thornon-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas Tilney, John
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Morrison, John (Salisbury) Touche, Sir Gorden
Hirst, Geoffrey Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Turner, H. F. L.
Holland-Martin, C. J. Nabarro, G. D. N. Turton, R. H.
Hollis, M. C. Nicholls, Harmar Tweedsmuir, Lady
Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Holt, A. F. Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Vosper, D. F.
Hope, Lord John Nield, Basil (Chester) Wade, D. W.
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Horobin, I, M. Nugent, G. R. H. Wakefield Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Oakshott, H. D. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Odey, G. W. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Watkinson, H. A.
Hurd, A. R. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (IIford, N.) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare) Wellwood, W.
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Osborne, C. Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Partridge, E. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Perkins, W. R. D. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Jennings, R. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Wills, G.
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Peyton, J. W. W. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Pickthorn. K. W. M. Wood, Hon. R.
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Pilkington, Capt. R. A. York, C.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Pitman, I. J.
Kaberry, D. Powell, J. Enoch TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sir H. Butcher and Mr. R. Thompson.
Adams, Richard Bacon, Miss Alice Bence, C. R.
Albu, A. H. Baird, J. Benn, Hon. Wedgwood
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Balfour, A. Benson, G.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Beswick, F.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Bartley, P. Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)
Awbery, S. S. Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Blackburn, F.
Blenkinsop, A. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Price, Joseph T (Westhoughton)
Blyton, W. R. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Proctor, W. T
Boardman, H. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pryde, D. J.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pursey, Cmdr H.
Bowden, H. W. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Rankin, John
Bowles, F. G. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Reeves, J.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Brock way, A. F. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Reid, William (Camlachie)
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Rhodes, H.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Janner, B. Richards, R.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Robens, Rt. Hon. A
Burke, W. A. Jeger, George (Goole) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Burton, Miss F. E. Jeger, Dr Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Callaghan, L. J. Johnson, James (Rugby) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Carmichael, J. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Ross, William
Champion, A. J. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Shackleton, E. A. A
Chapman, W. D. Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E
Chetwynd, G. R. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Short, E. W.
Clunie, J. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Coldrick, W. Keenan, W. Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Collick, P. H. Kenyon, C. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Cove, W. G. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) King, Dr. H. M. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Crosland, C. A. R. Kinky, J. Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Crossman, R. H. S. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Snow, J. W.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Sorensen, R. W.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Lewis, Arthur Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lindgren, G. S. Sparks, J. A.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Logan, D. G. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.
Deer, G. MacColl, J. E. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Delargy, H. J. McGhee, H. G. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Donnelly, D. L. McGovern, J. Stross, Dr. Barnett
Driberg, T. E. N. McInnes, J. Summerskill, Rt. Hon E
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) McKay, John (Wallsend) Swingler, S. T.
Edelman, M. McLeavy, F. Sylvester, G. O.
Edwards, John (Brighouse) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mainwaring, W. H. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Fernyhough, E. Mann, Mrs. Jean Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Fienburgh, W. Manuel, A. C. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Finch, H. J. Marquand, Rt Hon. H. A. Thornton, E.
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Mason, Roy Timmons, J
Follick, M. Mayhew. C. P. Tomney, F.
Foot, M. M. Mellish, R. J. Turner-Samuels, M.
Forman, J. C. Messer, F. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lyne
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mikardo, Ian Usborne, H. C.
Freeman, John (Watford) Mitchison, G. R. Viant, S. P.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Monslow, W. Wallace, H. W.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Moody, A. S. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Gibson, C. W. Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Weitzman, D.
Glanville, James Morley, R. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Gooch, E. G. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Wells, William (Walsall)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mort, D. L. West, D. G.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Moyle, A. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Grenfell, Rt Hon. D. R. Mulley, F. W. Wheeldon, W. E.
Grey, C. F. Murray, J. D. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Nally, W. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Hale, Leslie Oldfield, W. H. Wilkins, W. A.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Oliver, G. H. Willey, F. T.
Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W) Orbach, M. Williams, David (Neath)
Hamilton, W. W. Oswald, T. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Hannan, W. Padley, W. E. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hargreaves, A. Paget, R. T. Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Paling, Rt. Hon W. (Dearne Valley) Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Hastings, S. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Hayman, F. H. Pannell, Charles Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.) Pargiter, G. A. Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis) Parker, J. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A
Herbison, Miss M. Paton, J. Wyatt, W. L.
Hewitson, Capt. M. Pearson, A. Yates, V. F.
Hobson, C. R. Peart, T. F. Younger, Rt. Hon K.
Holman, P. Plummer, Sir Leslie
Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Poole, C. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Houghion, Douglas Popplewell, E. Mr. Royle and Mr. J. Taylor.
Hoy, J. H. Porter, G.

Question put, and agreed to.

Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)

On a point of order. May I ask your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on a question of procedure? During the altercation which has just ended, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), asked a question when seated and covered by a hat provided by the Serjeant at Arms. Subsequently, when the hat was required on this side of the House, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) prevented it from being passed over. [Hon. Members: "No."] I distinctly saw it. I would like your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to whether that hat should, in fact, be the property of one side or the other, and whether, in order to avoid a similar incident, the Serjeant at Arms could provide two hats?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Points of order were raised on both sides of the House and I was satisfied that in each case the hon. Member raising it was suitably covered and seated. Perhaps I should point out that in page 392 of Erskine May it is made perfectly clear that the Chair says "I think"—which I said—"the Ayes have it," and if his opinion is challenged a Division takes place.

Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)

Further to that point of order. I do not wish to pursue unduly the matter which arose earlier, but my understanding is that nobody on the other side said "Aye."

Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)

On a point of order.

Mr. Morrison

I am on a point of order. In these circumstances, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I only put the point for your consideration and our future guidance. I should have thought that it was really impossible for the Chair to say that the "Ayes" had it when not a single "Aye" was uttered. I quite agree that the voices seem louder one way or the other and that the Chair has to decide which seem the loudest, but in this case there was no voice at all for the "Ayes."

There is another point I want to raise which is related to this and that is that on page 403 of Erskine May it is stated, among other things, that on a Division being called the Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, gives the order "Clear the Lobby," and the Tellers' doors in both Lobbies are locked. We were listening, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and we did not hear you say "Clear the Lobby." This was on the first Division. I should like to know for our guidance whether, according to Erskine May, it appears to be necessary that the Chair should say "Clear the Lobby," as otherwise the Division is not authentic. I should like your Ruling, therefore—apart from the view you gave as to why the first Division was abortive—as to whether it was not also abortive because you did not say "Clear the Lobby." it is the very clear recollection of all of us that those words were not uttered.

Finally, I wish to make the point that if the first Division had been upheld as authentic—several of my hon. Friends were engaged in discussing while seated and covered various points of order with you, and it was necessary that some of my colleagues should stay and listen, and, if necessary, take part in the disputation—it really would have been rather severe on us if, in fact, because of raising legitimate points of order as we thought, whether rightly or wrongly, our names had not been recorded in the Division.

We are obliged to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for calling the second Division, but I wish to raise for further guidance, first, whether, if nobody says "No" or "Aye," as the case may be, it is presumptive evidence that the other side have it. Is it not necessary that the Speaker, the Deputy-Speaker or the Chairman should in putting the Question say "Clear the Lobby," and that otherwise the Division is abortive?

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I did not realise that I did not say "Clear the Lobby." If I did not, it was a mistake. I have called a great many Divisions, and I do not know how I came to make that mistake. However, I humbly apologise for the mistake if, in fact, I did not say so. When there is a Division, I always say "Clear the Lobby," because that starts the whole machine. I can hardly believe that I did not say it.

Mr. S. Silverman

With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is not merely the first Division which was abortive; the second was, too. The point I wish to put to you is that the second Division was abortive because it was a Division taken upon a Question that the House had already decided. You made it perfectly clear that you did not hear any Member of the House say "Aye." I am not concerned with whether an hon. Member sitting at the end of the front bench below the Gangway on the Government side, at a very belated stage, recollected that he had clearly said "Aye." My point is that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, did not hear him, and that therefore the point has to be considered on the basis that so far as you are concerned nobody had said "Aye."

In those circumstances, if nobody has said "Aye" and others say "No," then that Question has been decided in the negative, and, with respect, it is the duty of the Chair so to declare. To proceed from that point to say "Lock the doors" and to purport to take a Division which turns out to be abortive anyhow, and when that is clearly abortive then to proceed to take a Division upon a matter which has already been concluded is surely contrary to the rules and practice of the House.

I submit that it is a very important question because, if I am right, the Government have been defeated without a dissentient voice on an important aspect of major Government policy, and it would be most unfortunate if they were rescued from that position by the misapplication of the rules of the House.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think there was any misapplication of the rules of the House. The Chair says, "I think the Ayes have it," or "I think the Noes have it."

Mr. Silverman

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is quite true that the Chair may say, "I think the Ayes have it." That means that the Chair has heard some hon. Members say "Aye" and some say "No," and in the best exercise of his discretion and judgment he thinks that one side or the other has it. But it is impossible for anyone to think that the "Ayes" have it if no one has said "Aye."

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

One says what one thinks, and the fact that I said what I thought was right was proved by the Division. I think there can be no complaint.

Mr. John Maclay

In order to have it on the record, I tried to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, before the Division was actually called, but failed as my voice is not as loud as that of some hon. Members opposite. I distinctly heard my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) say "Aye." In view of the statements that have been made by hon. Members opposite, I am anxious that that should be clear.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The point is not whether anybody said "Aye" or not. I thought the "Ayes" had it, which I am quite entitled to think. I may be proved wrong, and there may be a Division. One does not judge by the volume of noise but by one's own judgment.

Mr. S. Silverman

Surely it would be a wholly unprecedented thing in the whole annals of the House of Commons for any presiding officer to presume to think that a majority of the House of Commons was in favour or against a particular question if nobody gives him any evidence whatever on which to found any opinion at all. It is not enough for Mr. Speaker or his Deputy to say, "I think the Ayes have it." Before he is under a duty to express such an opinion and proceed to a Division, there must be some conflict which the Chair determines by expressing the best opinion and the best judgment, but until such a conflict has expressed itself in the collection of voices there is no room for an opinion by the Chair and the Chair would have no right even to form an opinion.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The Chair says what it thinks and those who disagree can challenge it. That is how we go to a Division. That has always been the custom in the House. The next Order which I give is "Clear the Lobby." It is all perfectly simple and straightforward.

Mr. Burden rose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think we had better get on to the next Amendment.