HC Deb 16 February 1954 vol 523 cc1885-944

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

7.1 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley) rose

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

On a point of order. May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on a point of procedure? We have before us a Bill which is extremely complicated and lengthy, and which deals with a college which has apparently been bankrupted under the authority of the Conservative Party. It is now desired to build it into a college which would be eligible for grants from public funds.

Before the House considers the Bill, it seems to me that we should have some explanation of its long Clauses. Could you therefore ask the Treasury Bench whether we could have a speech to propose the Bill and to explain its Clauses and Schedules to us? It is a complicated matter, and we ought to have an explanation before we attempt to deal with the main issues and with the Amendments that have been put down.

Mr. Speaker

The Bill has been set down for Second Reading at this moment, and it is in order in the way it has been moved. Any speeches of the nature that the hon. Gentleman desires must come later.

Mr. Wigg

I share the astonishment of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme(Mr. Swingler) that there is no spokesman of the Conservative Party here tonight to explain this Measure. The Chairman of Ways and Means has done his duty and has formally moved the Second Reading. I am grateful to him. The power to determine the order ofbusiness is vested in him under Standing Order No. 174, and had he not put the Bill down first my hon. Friends and myself would have been somewhat inconvenienced; so I make no complaint about the Ashridge Trust Bill coming up for Second Reading now. I am very glad of it.

Yesterday afternoon, when the right hon. Gentleman gave notice of his intention to put down eight Private Bills for Second Reading tonight, my first business was to seek out an hon. Gentleman who sits below the Gangway, the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). I gave him formal notice that I should refer to him this evening and I subsequently wrote in confirmation of that fact. One of the great authorities in this House—if we are to accept what the hon. Gentleman says of himself—is the hon. Member for Croydon, East. His influence on almost every opposed Private Bill which has come before the House over the last 20 years has been apparent. His great influence does not stop there, but has been brought to bear upon almost every Private Bill which has been brought to the House.

I should be trespassing on your generosity, Mr. Speaker, if I referred in any great detail at this stage to the activities of the hon. Member for Croydon, East. Later tonight, if we pass from this stage and, in your kindness, you call the Instruction which is on the Order Paper in my name, I may refer to those activities in greater detail. I must confine myself now to what is in the Bill.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme says, Ashridge has for many years been a bankrupt Conservative college. It was established to the memory of a great statesman. I speak well of the dead and I will not say anything about him. It has come to be called "The Bonar Law College."It was endowed with a considerable sum of money, and a board of governors was set up who were certainly inspired by the Conservative Party.

I will not weary hon. Members by reading the particulars which are set out in the Preamble to the Bill. The influence was there. One has only to point out that two governors were to be appointed by the Executive Committee of the National Union of Conservative Associations and that two ex officio governors were to consist of the Leader and the Chairman of the Conservative Party.

The subjects to be taught were economics, political and social science and political history, with special reference to the development of the British constitution for those who wanted to see an educated democracy. There was also provision that persons should be trained to become lecturers, speakers, writers and workers with a view to furthering the objects which I have just read out, and which are all tied up with the memorial to the late Mr. Bonar Law and with the furtherance of the interests of the Conservative Party.

The House is asked today to take this bankrupt Conservative concern, which has now exhausted its usefulness as a piece of propaganda machinery for the Tory Party, and to turn it into an educational trust where the same group of subjects will be studied as was studied in the past. It is true that the governors are now to foe chosen from a group of distinguished men from all branches of public life and that one of the new governors is a supporter of the Labour Party.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Who is he?

Mr. Wigg

Viscount Jowitt, who has become a member of the governing body which will be responsible for the future administration of the college. When the college was a purely Conservative institution there was a condition that it should concern itself with the training of persons to become lecturers, speakers, writers and workers, but that has been dropped and a Clause has taken its place to which I take exception. I would very much like to hear some prominent Member speak on behalf of the Conservative Party on this point.

The Clause lays down that in the education given in the college there shall be a rigid exclusion of teaching calculated to support the politics of any political party, and that the general aim shall be to provide education free from bias relating to party politics. In other words, it is on the insertion of that Clause that the Conservative Party hope to rest their case that the future usefulness of Ash-ridge College shall now be on a non-party basis, and from an unbiased angle.

I am extremely suspicious of people, whether they are members of the Church or speakers on the B.B.C., who say that they are without bias. I am biased from the tips of my toes to the utmost hair on my head, and I am proud of the bias. I never attempt to conceal the bias. I say that all the noble minds who have made a contribution to adult education in this country have been the first to declare that they were biased. The great adult education lecturers, like Lord Lindsay and the late Archbishop of Canterbury, were men who admitted their bias and were conscious of it and, having admitted it and being conscious of it, honestly set out to conceal it. I have time and again discussed with students the political leanings of their lecturers, and have sometimes discovered that teachers with leanings towards the Labour Party have covered up their bias so well that the students thought their bias was in the opposite direction.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Would the hon. Member ask his right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) to support it?

Mr. Wigg

The right hon. Gentleman will make his own speech if he wishes.

Although I understand the reasons which have prompted those responsible for the Bill putting in this Clause, it is a weakening and enervating and not a strengthening provision. I am one of those who want to see controversy and virile argument. I am a disciple of the late Lord Lindsay. He always held that the glory of British democracy was to be found in the power of our discussions, which were carried on temperately and without the wish to do physical violence. What we have done in the last 300 years, in moments of great national crisis, has been to turn ourselves into a great discussion group. Only by such methods does one get an understanding of the issues of our times, and without understanding one cannot get reasonable and responsible action.

We must therefore be extremely cautious—and must certainly keep an eye on Ashridge College—with people who have had very strong political bias in the past, as they admit, and have had vast funds at their disposal which have now been run down to the point at which the college, as it were, has had to take in lodgers. Half the buildings are given over to a young ladies'educational establishment, called, I believe, the House of Citizenship. That is an excellent thing. But the Conservative Party has now brought this establishment to the edge of bankruptcy. The Conservative Party, of course, has got something in exchange. It has a temporary majority. A great deal of the work in the propaganda field has had its origin at Ashridge.

To be frank, I should not have discovered the merits and demerits of this Bill if I had not, for some months, been engaged in thwarting the hon. Memberfor Croydon, East. Where his interests went I followed him. I felt this to be a proper subject for study, and although we regret the hon. Gentleman's absence on this occasion, I am grateful to him—and the House and the country ought to be grateful to him—because we want to make quite sure that adult education is being enriched. We want to be sure that the British public is not buying a pig-in-the-poke, and that public money is not to be poured into Ashridge so that, at the second stage, another propaganda machine comes forth, this time not under the banner of a Conservative Party, but in the guise of independence and lack of bias.

I have made my protest and drawn attention to what existed in the past and what is now proposed, and I hope that my hon. Friends will not press this to a Division. But this experiment should be watched to see that it is not abused under this new guise of independence. We know what Tory independence means, and that one of their famous devices is to discover new alibisfor themselves. We should give an opportunity to those responsible to live up to what they profess to be. On the other hand, we must watch that public money is not to be used as a means of supporting and furthering the interests of the Conservative Party.

7.14 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Swingier (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

There are a number of very serious issues which the House should consider in dealing with this Bill. It is indeed very surprising that no hon. Members on the other side of the House have seen fit to make themselves acquainted with the issues involved so as to present the Bill in a proper way. That is emphasised by the fact that the first matter which the House is compelled to discuss tonight is whether or not it is desirable for the Conservative Party to have an educational college, because this Bill deals, in the first place, with a college founded to honour the memory of a great statesman.

Like my hon. Friend, I do not propose to say anything about Mr. Bonar Law, but hon. Members opposite ought seriously to consider whether an institution deliberately founded to honour the memory of a man who stands in the esteem of Members opposite should be swept aside by the presentation of this Bill. Ashridge College was founded to train people to become lecturers, speakers, writers and workers in the Conservative cause. We have to ask ourselves whether today the Conservative Party is in need of a college honouring the memory of Mr. Bonar Law and training persons to speak and write and propagate Conservative thought.

I can well understand that there are reasons which might impel hon. Members opposite to vote in favour of the Bill, and disregard the original reasons for this foundation. We realise that there is still a rift in the lute in the educational system. One reason the Conservative Party does not need such an educational college is because, under our present system, those people, in any case, can buy privileged education. We have still to face the fact, that, broadly speaking, those who support the Conservative cause are able to buy a privileged education not open to the rest of the population. When those people sit on the Treasury Bench over there they are also in a position to cut down educational facilities for the rest of the population who cannot afford privileged education. That is probably one of the reasons a college supposed to be endowed by the original Bonar Law Memorial Trust for the education of lecturers, speakers, writers and workers can now be dispensed with.

I would not claim to say anything further on that, because I think it is something entirely to be decided by hon. Members opposite. But we should certainly like to know tonight whether those hon. Members opposite have discussed this particular issue, and really agree that this college, which was founded for the purpose of educating persons in the gospels of Toryism and the training of people to propagate them, can now be dispensed with because the privileges of the educational system are sufficiently emphasised.

There is a much more serious issue. This Bill claims to convert Ashridge College from being a Conservative college, on the governing body of which the Conservative Party has a controlling influence and interest, into a college which will give an impartial adult education, the governing body of which would be in a position to apply to the Ministry of Education for a grant from public funds. We have to ask whether today the Government are in favour of having more adult education colleges. This is a Bill to bring into being another adult education college; to convert one which was previously being financed and maintained by the Conservative Party, on a political basis, into an adult education college, which will certainly apply for grants from public funds in the same way as do other adult education colleges.

Yet we are faced with the situation in which the Ministry of Education—certainly under the present Minister—has been cutting down the grants to education bodies. The Minister of Education has conspicuously absented herself from this debate, in spite of the fact that it is concerned with an educational college. Under her administration we have been threatened with a cut in the grants for education bodies, and there is now a busybody committee of inquiry which is investigating adult education bodies for the purpose of trying to bring about some economies.

This Bill, far from bringing about any economies, will make another college eligible to apply for grants from the Exchequer for adult education purposes. Hon. Members on this side of the House would certainly like to know the view of the Ministry of Education on this matter. Is the Ministry in favour of more adult education colleges being made eligible for public grants? If it is not—as we would assume from the Minister's present policy—this Bill should be amended or rejected. If it is in favour of more of these colleges, we must consider very seriously whether we should allow other education projects, which have been turned down by the Minister, to be placed on a basis equal to that of Ashridge College.

It is no good for the present Minister to threaten the W.E.A. with a 10 per cent. cut and to set up a committee of inquiry in order to make economies if we are to allow Ashridge College, because it is a Tory college, to be eligible for grants from the Exchequer. What is the Minister's view of the conversion of this college into an adult education college? We have not noticed any enthusiasm on the part of hon. Members opposite for promoting adult education. We did not notice it when the Minister threatened to cut adult education grants by 10 per cent.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Where is she?

Mr. Swingler

We should like to know where the Minister of Education is, and why other representatives of the Ministry have conspicuously absented themselves from the House when the subject of education is under discussion. We ought to know whether they are in favour of this college being made eligible for grants from the Ministry when it becomes an adult education college.

Page 3 of the Bill sets out the constitution of the existing governing body of the Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust, which includes two governors appointed by the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations and two ex officio governors consisting of the Leader and Chairman of the Conservative Party. Page 5 sets out the proposed governing body of Ashridge College. That is to consist of the same governing body, except that for the names of the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Conservative Party there are substituted the names of Viscount Jowitt, Professor Kircaldy, and Sir Norman Birkett.

Mr. Ellis Smith

It is still Conservative.

Mr. Swingler

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) says, the proposed governing body is to consist of seven of the former governors, including Members of the House of Lords such as Viscount Caldecote, Baron Fairhaven and Baron Oaksey, so that the majority of the proposed governing body would still be Conservative.

The election of the Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords is obviously a step in the direction of impartiality and, to quote the Bill, "a rigid exclusion"of party politics from the proposed curricula in the new college, but when we examine the other substitutions—I am sure that they are estimable persons, upon whom I wish to make no per- sonal attack—we find that Professor Kircaldy was the Assistant Secretary of the British Employers' Federation from 1929 to 1939. I do not know whether my trade unionist friends would agree that he is a very impartial person to substitute for the Prime Minister or Lord Woolton. Then we have the Principal of the London School of Economics. I do not know where he stands. But it is a fact that the Conservative nominees on the proposed governing body are in a majority of seven to three.

Yet we are asked to relate that situation to the proposed object of the College, as outlined in the Bill, namely, that There shall be a rigid exclusion in the education given in the College of teaching calculated to support the policies of any political party and the general aim of the Corporation shall be to provide at the College education which shall be free from bias relating to party politics. The House should examine this Bill with very great care. I ask bon. Members opposite to imagine the same sort of arrangement taking place in connection with the Labour Party. Suppose that there were a Keir Hardie Memorial Trust, and a college of this kind for the purpose of training writers, lecturers and propagandists of the Socialist cause, and the Labour Party came forward with a Bill seeking to convert this college from a party political college into a public education college, with a rigid exclusion of party politics, and suppose that it were proposed that seven of the persons who sat on the previous governing body should sit on the proposed new governing body, and that Lord Salisbury, the Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords, were brought in to dress up the Bill with an air or respectability? What would hon. Members opposite do? This is a racket.

This Bill should be subjected to the very closest scrutiny. We are not prepared to swallow Clause 6, which talks about an impartial education—which will enable this proposed college to receive grants from public funds—when, in fact, the Conservative Party is going to have a dominant majority on the proposed governing body.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Could my hon. Friend explain what he thinks the bearing of this argument might be on a similar proposal by the National Council of Labour Colleges were it to be made?

Mr. Swingler

The National Council of Labour Colleges has always prided itself on its independence of public funds and its refusal to accept clauses in its constitution that would enable it to get grants from public funds. Thus it may honestly and straightforwardly pursue the object of training persons in the cause of Socialism.

This Bill represents a retreat on the part of the Conservative Party from that proud standpoint. Obviously, this college was quite honestly and straightforwardly a Tory college training people in Toryism, with a majority of Tory nominees on the governing body, but, unfortunately, in spite of the enormous funds raised by hon. Members opposite, this college apparently has gone bankrupt.

I see in the Schedule to the Bill a peculiar combination of investments, including investments in Courage's bitter, West Gloucester water and Imperial tobacco. Some of these investments are naturally a little shaky because of reports that Ministers have received in recent times. Still it is difficult to understand why the party opposite is unable to command sufficient funds to be able to continue to honour the memory of the late Mr.Bonar Law.

There are some peculiar statements in the setting out in the Bill of the objects of the Corporation. We are asked to approve a Bill to enable the Corporation to carry on this Trust and Ashridge College for …the education of persons in economies, political and social science, political history with special reference to the development of the British constitution and the growth and expansion of the Commonwealth and Empire…. I must register an objection to that phrase, because, strictly speaking, it should read, "growth and expansion of the Commonwealth and the contraction of the Empire." We on this side of the House are proud of the fact that it should read "growth and expansion of the Commonwealth" with the granting of self-government to more and more of the territories and the contraction in the number of those territories directly governed from this country.

It is quite clear from the setting out of these objects that we have here an inevitable hangover of Tory philsophy from the college as originally founded. The Tories are unable to get themselves up to date even to get this Bill through the House. They are unable even to use the phraseology of modern times, let alone to alter the composition of the governing body to make it one that, in a sense, could be eligible for grants from public funds.

There should be serious debate on the other side of the House about whether Ashridge should not be maintained as a Conservative college. Members on the other side should ask themselves whether there is not still a need for a college to train people in what is said to be the philosophy of Conservatism. At any rate they should ask themselves where the money is going. How is it that they are unable to find funds to maintain Ashridge? They must ask themselves how it is that this House should be asked to pass a Bill to bring into being a new college for adult education which will apply for grants to the Minister of Education, when the present Minister of Education, conspicuously absent from our debate, is concerned with cutting down the amount of adult education, is concerned with reducing by 10 per cent, the grants for other adult education bodies, and has set up a committee of inquiry to find means of making economies. These are the principal issues involved, and they ought to be very seriously examined by the House before we come to the detailed scrutiny of the Bill.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I must first of all declare an interest, not a financial but an educational interest, in the Bill. I have some responsibility for the existence of Ashridge College. Its being brought into being was the greatest compliment to the success of the National Council of Labour Colleges we have ever had. The fact that we weretraining men from every industry in the country with a knowledge of economics and history and social science made the life of Conservative candidates so unbearable that it was decided that before they faced the public they had better be trained, so that they might know the facts of life and of his- tory. So the Bonar Law College was set up to train people to work throughout the country for the Conservative Party.

The National Council of Labour Colleges is an unbiased institution, an educational organisation. In other words, it teaches history, economics, and all these things quite objectively. Even facts are enough to make people Socialists. No intelligent and honest person, once he knows the facts, can avoid being a Socialist. Therefore, we need notteach anything but the facts to make people Socialists. Therefore, we have no hesitation in saying that our education is quite impartial and objective, free from all bias and guiltless of twisting history and twisting facts.

It is very difficult to be unbiased, and there will be some spheres in which, with the best will in the world, lecturers at Ashridge will feel this difficulty. The question is: who is to choose the lecturers, and who is to choose the students? How is this college to be comprised? Quiteclearly, if all the lecturers are Conservatives and all the students are Conservatives there will not be much impartial education. The education then will be of the kind the college was set up originally to provide.

As I say, it is difficult to be unbiased, and, moreover, education can appear to be impartial even when it is not. For instance, a bricklayer found his little boy bringing sums home for homework. Arithmetic is impartial, but the boy had a sum saying, "If a bricklayer works 54 hours-a week at x much a week, how much does he earn?"The bricklayer was most indignant and told the school teacher that he would like his son to do sums up to 48 hours a week but not more. So even arithmetic can be used for the inculcation of other than mathematical forms.

It is so with English. The teaching of the English language provides many opportunities for propaganda. If one says "The king is the finest shot of all in the world"one is automatically encouraging admiration of royalty. If a Communist Party teacher says "Stalin was the greatest man in the world." that is pretty good propaganda from the point of view of the Communists.

Who is to distinguish between what is propaganda and what is not? It is in the interpretation of history and the inter- pretation oflife that the question becomes most obvious and acute. How will the General Strike be treated at this college? Will it be dealt with as a lockout of the miners? Or will be dealt with as a strike against the community? These are matters of interpretation,and there is no likelihood of impartiality.

Why not make the college a part of the public education system? Education is private or public. If this college is placed under the Ministry of Education, made subject to inspection by the Ministry, becomes a part of the public education organisation, there is some chance of its being impartial. The Workers'Educational Association was set up to try to extend culture to the workers, but it came up against an insuperable obstacle. One cannot extend culture to people whose minds are obsessed by economic problems. If we have millions of unemployed and millions who are afraid of becoming unemployed, as we did between the wars, their minds are not attuned to a study of the New Testament, literature, geology or the higher arts.

Clearly, these people wanted some solution to their problems. The study of economics is useless if it is merely an academic study of a Cook's tour round the capitalist system to see how beautiful it is. One must have an examination of the capitalist system to find out what is wrong with it and what is necessary to put it right. Whenever we face that problem in a scientific way, we are up against the problem of making the decisions about what is right and what is wrong. When we come to that problem,this college must cease to be impartial. There is no good in a college which will say, "There is a great moor in front of us with great deadly pits into which you might fall, but I am so impartial that I must not tell you the safe paths so that you can cross." That would be nonsense.

Education without a purpose is a waste of money. It is a dilletante exercise. Therefore, we are entitled to ask what is the purpose of the college. What will the students do? Are we merely training people to get better jobs at the expense of the State, or are we training them to speak from Conservative platforms and to become semi-intelligent Conservative candidates? I maintain that, even with the college, they cannot stand up to the students of the working class who deal with these matters objectively.

To make people Conservatives one has to mislead them. If one teaches them the facts they are bound to come over to our side of the House and to favour a planned system of economics. How can economics be a science if it teaches chaos or if it preaches that nobody must organise anything at all and that we must leave everything to chance, so that we let the world grow up like Topsy or let it go to smithereens, if so desired?

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, who is making a most helpful contribution. My right hon. Friend knows that the motto of the National Council of Labour Colleges, which has done such great work—and the same will apply to the college we are talking about—is, "I promise to be candid but never impartial." There cannot be impartiality in politics.

Mr. Woodburn

I thank my hon. Friend for reminding me. I mentioned earlier that I was President of the National Council of Labour Colleges. I am very proud to have taken part in its work. Its impartiality has had a meaning for the whole history of trade unionism. But when the Conservatives say, "No party politics in this college," they simply mean, "No Labour Party politics in this college." Any other kind of party politics is considered to be education by the Conservatives.

We have a reply to that. We believe that one has to guide people in the right direction, otherwise education is not a science. Nevertheless, the college has a purpose. That purpose is not disclosed because, so long as it is part of a Conservative organisation, or run by the Conservatives, even in memory of a great Scotsman to whom I pay my tribute, I am not satisfied that it does not still fulfil the purpose for which it was designed, under the guise of an impartial college.

There are one or two points of interest. Why is it being formed into a trust? Somebody has referred to all the investments. Once it is accepted as a trust the investments escape Income Tax. Under the system in which we live there is a clear distinction in that freedom from Income Tax between any college organised by the trade union movement or the Labour Party and anything organised by anybody else. So long as it is organised for purposes other than Labour purposes it escapes Income Tax.

The Labour Party had a trust. A man died and left it a considerable amount of money. The Labour Party did everything it could to formulate a trust that would free it from Income Tax. No one was able to devise any method to get the money free from tax. The system was challenged in the courts, but the purpose of the donor was frustrated by the activities of people opposed to the Labour Party.

The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)

That applies to every party.

Mr. Woodburn

That happened to the Labour Party. There was no possibility of devising a trust to enable the Labour Party to get that advantage. The National Council of Labour Colleges is entirely dependent on the trade union movement. There are between six and seven million members of the trade union movement who are affiliated to it and from whose contributions the funds are paid. It is not a political organisation. That is recognised by law because, even when the last trade union Act was in existence, the money was still payable from the industrial funds of the unions. That is an important point. It is recognised as a purely trade union organisation—an educational body doing educational work. It has nothing in its constitution that ties it to any political party.

We are prepared to educate Conservatives. Conservative trade unionists take correspondence courses with the Labour Colleges day in and day out, and I am pleased to say that they benefit greatly from their education. We have no partiality about choosing our students. Every trade unionist whether Conservative, Labour—there may still be some Liberals—Communist or any one with no politics at all, can take education from the National Council of Labour Colleges free of charge. The trade union movement subscribes a general educational fund to provide for students who want to avail themselves of the facilities.

Nevertheless, Income Tax must be levied on any money that becomes available from investments for the National Council of Labour Colleges. This is very great partiality on the part of the authorities against a working-class body. I am sorry to say that we have not a great many investments. Our money is mainly spent on the purpose for which it is raised. I am glad to say that the trade union movement subscribes most generously.

The work that is done is effective. I believe that, until the coming of television and wireless, the National Council of Labour Colleges was the greatest effective working-class education that was going on in this country. Over the last 20 or 30 years it has built up a great body of understanding people. Much of the steady advance in this country—the reliability of the electorate so that they know what is happening in spite of the Tory scares—is due to the fact that wehave a great basis of understanding of the fundamental developments in society.

We ought to look most carefully at the Bill and consider whether, under a guise which relieves it of Income Tax liability, it will not perpetuate the original purpose of the college which was, as far as possible, to train Tory candidates, speakers and hecklers.

7.50 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)

I am not sure whether I ought to declare an interest in this Bill, but I have had what is perhaps the unusual experience for hon. Members of this side of the House of twice lecturing at Ashridge.

Sir Frederick Messer (Tottenham)

So have I.

Mr. Stewart

I am happy to know that I am not unique in that, and that my hon. Friend has had the same experience. Whether I am any more orless likely to give any lectures there in future after I have said what I have to say tonight, is not for me to judge, but I thought it proper to put the House in possession of that fact.

The history of the matter is well known. An attempt was made to found a college at which to teach politics to Conservatives, and it failed. I think it proper to point out that an attempt of that kind is almost bound to fail. If I may offer a word of advice to the party opposite, it is that it is a profound mistake for them to start any imitation of other parties' educational ventures among their members. Their history is littered with the failure of attempts of that kind, and for the very good reason that, fundamentally, the attachment of a Conservative to his party is not based on intellectual conviction.

I am really making a present of most valuable advice to the party opposite, but they should realise that if once they start encouraging their followers to subject their convictions to inquiry and reason, they will fall to pieces. They would do much better to do what an older generation of Conservatives did and decide that all this education is really so much nonsense.

So the attempt failed. Then the college passed through an extremely interesting period during which—although it appeared still to have a considerable connection with the Conservative Party—it made a genuine attempt to do something very much different from being a Conservative propaganda college, and no doubt it was during that period that my hon. Friend and I lectured there.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Let me make it quite clear that I have never been near the place.

Mr. Stewart

I am happy to have my hon. Friend's assurance, but I am bound to say that I hope that, before we have finished with this Bill, Ashridge will be such a place that he will be prepared to lecture there.

We are now asked to continue this process and to recognise that Ashridge is making a real attempt to be an impartial college. I want to say a word or two about this question of impartiality. I do not wish to bore the House with any lengthy schoolboy reminiscences, but I well remember when I was at school hearing one of my masters give a lesson on current affairs which contained the phrase, "Of course, I am not speaking either for or against Socialism, but it always has been impracticable, and it always will be." I also remember a Roman history lesson on the great land reformer, Tiberius Gracchus, which began with the words, "Tiberius Gracchus was wrong. Get that into your heads before you start."

I should like to say that the two school masters who gave me those lessons were very charming and well qualified men. I mention this point to show that these attempts at impartiality in teaching usually fail in their intent. Although young at the time when I was given these pieces of advice, I was a Socialist. They had singularly little effect on me, and I have always retained a certain affection for the memory of Tiberius Gracchus.

On the point of impartiality, which I thought was very well discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I think it would be a mistake for this college, or for any college, to try to seek impartiality by inviting along a number of colourless people who would talk about public affairs and who would try to pretend that they had no political opinions of their own. The impartial person is, I suppose, someone who knows everything about the subject and, as a result, believes nothing. A lecture given by such a person is of no educational value at all.

If the college really wants to be impartial, it must seek to get people there of all shades of opinion to represent those shades of opinion as frankly and as competently and in as lively a manner as they can. I think I am right in saying that we shall possibly hear from hon. Members who are better acquainted with the subject than I am that that is what the college now has in mind and is seeking to do, that it will accept the warning given by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley and recognises that the people who go there to lecture are bound to express political opinions in the course of what they are saying, and that, if the college is to seek impartiality, it can only be done by making sure that all sorts of political opinions are expressed there.

I do not wish to weary the House by repeating the lectures I gave there, but in the course of what I was saying—and I was dealing with delegated legislation and Parliamentary control over nationalised industries—I pointed out that very often the criticism of delegated legislation arose not so much from a regard for the dignity of Parliament, but from a hearty dislike of what is known as the Welfare State, which cannot be administered without a great volume of delegated legislation.

I also pointed out that in many respects the nationalised industries have a better record with regard to prices than have many parts of the private sector of our economy. I also made a number of other impartial statements about the general political life of the country. I am bound to say, in fairness to those who control Ashridige, that no impediment was put in the way of my doing so, and that no adverse comment was made after I had finished doing so. If they will continue to give to all opinions a free opportunity ofexpression, then we might feel that they are trying to do what Clause 6 describes.

I can well accept the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley that what is their real intention could possibly be better examined later than at present, and I think that when the Bill comes to be considered in detail attention ought to be given to framing more precisely what they really want when we come to Clause 6. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley suggested that it would be wise not to press opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill to a Division. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) was of the same opinion, but I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was right.

There are a number of reasons why we should not press the matter to a Division on Second Reading. There is one which will occur to a number of hon. Members who have studied the Order Paper, which is that, should it be defeated on Second Reading, we should have no opportunity of discussing the very interesting suggestions which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley proposes to make on the Bill at a later stage.

There is also the point that we have at Ashridge a valuable building, some of whose educational work is of undoubted value, and which, with certain Amendments to the Bill, could be made a useful addition to this country's store of adult education facilities. Much as we may be vexed at the Minister of Education's previous attack on adult education and her deplorable absence from the House today—and not only her absence, but that of the Parliamentary Secretary also, whom we would have been glad to hear explaining the Bill—we should, I think, be cutting off our noses to spite our faces if, because the Minister is attacking certain pants of adult education, we were to throw away an opportunity of turning what is a very suitable building and organisation into something that can be really used by us.

Mr. Ellis Smith

My hon. Friend was present during the whole of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). How does he reconcile that advice with the forthright speech made by my right hon. Friend? In addition, does he not agree that there is an increasing anti-working-class attitude adopted throughout the television and wireless programmes, and should we not therefore take a stand against such proposals as appear in this Bill?

Mr. Stewart

I am not discussing the same point as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire was discussing. The point I am trying to make is this. There is a place for an institution in which all types of partisan opinion can freely express themselves—

Mr. Ellis Smith: But not working-class opinion.

Mr. Stewart

Certainly; but my criticism of the institutions which my hon. Friend has just mentioned is that they do not give sufficient expression to certain particular brands of opinion. I say there is a place in the country's educational system for an institution which gives genuine opportunity to all types of opinion to be expressed in a lively and competent manner.

Mr. Woodburn

I am not sure who is sponsoring this Bill. I have heard that many people are criticising it. Could my hon. Friend tell us how the students are to be selected for this college? Are they to be sent by the Conservative Party, or are they going to be selected by some other body? Can any trade union send people there and fill the college?

Mr. Stewart

I cannot answer those questions. I am not sponsoring the Bill. I am merely expressingan opinion based on having listened to the speeches of my hon. Friends and on such knowledge as I have of the institution itself. In deed, I hope we shall at a later stage hear replies to some of the questions which my right hon. Friend has just asked. But if the hope that I have ex- pressed, and about which some of my hon. Friends feel doubtful, is to be fulfilled, then it seams to me that, should the House be willing to give this Bill a Second Reading, it would be necessary to look very narrowly at certain of the detailed provisions of the Bill.

The provision that I am most interested in is that relating to the governors, because if we get that right the other things will follow pretty well automatically. I am disquieted to find not only that among the list of the intended governors are certain sections of public opinion quite inadequately represented, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley pointed out, but when we turn to the Schedules and see how future governors are to be appointed we find that they are to be appointed by the existing governors. In order to appoint any new governor there has to be the consent of two-thirds of the existing governors which, with the proportions of opinion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has pointed out, would mean, if there were no real sense of fairness, that the type of opinion represented on this side of the House could be squeezed out of the governing body altogether.

I hope and believe that that is not the intention of those who are concerned to get this Bill through. But if it is not their intention, I think they will have to indicate more plainly a willingness completely to reconsider this list, to reconsider the wording of Clause 6 and to answer some of the questions that have been asked about the choice of students. I believe that at present a good many people become students there simply because they have seen advertisements of the lecture courses, some of which, indeed, may be seen in the columns of the "New Statesman"and others in the columns of "The Economist."

There are various other ways by which people get in. I could not hope to give a detailed account because I have not the knowledge, but it is something of which the House should usefully be informed. As I say, while I have these detailed criticisms to make, they seem to me to be matters that could be put right at a later stage if there is the will on the part of those who are specially concerned with the Bill to put them right. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley that we should be taking the wisest course if we did not press our opposition to the Second Reading but made it possible to proceed both to the very interesting Instructions which he has in mind and to a number of other points which have been raised in the course of the debate.

Mr. Swingler

Would not my hon. Friend agree that it is impossible to give this Bill an unchallenged Second Reading unless we have some assurance that the composition of the governing body is reconsidered, for that body plainly retains the administration of the college in the Conservative Party?

Mr. Stewart

I thought I had made that point.

8.6 p.m.

Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)

I want to draw the attention of the House to one or two aspects of this Bill, and I hope to do so shortly. The length of my speech, I must confess, will very largely depend upon you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because I am not quite clear whether this is strictly the appropriate moment at which to make certain points or whether I should do so later when we debate the Instruction to the Committee, which I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will move.

I should like to say, first, how grateful I am sure the House is to the Leader of the House for giving us this opportunity to discuss a very important Bill—

Mr. Wigg rose

Mr. Usborne

I think I know what my hon. Friend was about to say. It was, in fact, generous of the Leader of the House only because my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley had made it possible so to do by objecting last Monday and the Monday before. I think it is also most important that we should understand something of the nature of the curious procedure in which all these Private Bills are automatically involved.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

The question of procedure does not arise at this stage. This is the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Usborne

I was aware, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you might trip me up on this point, but I wanted to come in a curious and odd way to Clause 6 of this Bill, because it will be seen in that Clause that the object of Ashridge, this very college, is …to carry on…education of persons in economics, political and social science, political history with special reference to the development of the British Constitution…. Part of this curious British Constitution involves the procedure by which these very Bills reach the House of Commons and pass through it.

I want to know, therefore, what they are going to teach when they discuss the British Constitution, and whether they are going to discuss the procedure of Private Bills. That seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate point to make. It is a perfectly genuine and honest question to ask, and it is a great pity that apparently there is nobody here who is prepared to answer it. Am I out of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is in order in mentioning that the procedure may form part of the Constitution, but he is not in order in discussing the procedure for Private Bills on this subject.

Mr. Usborne

That being so, I want to draw attention to the fact that this Bill is important because of the curious anomalies and, since I have the expectation of catching your eye later, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when we debate the Instruction, I will conclude now by saying that I am doubtful whether we should give this Bill a Second Reading without a Division.

My worry is this. I am always extremely reluctant to differ in any way from the views expressed to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. He said quite clearly to me a few moments ago that I ought to give this Bill a Second Reading without a vote. I am not accustomed to disobeying his orders if I can avoid it, but in view of what other hon. Members have said I must draw to the attention of the House the fact that there is more in the Bill than has apparently met the eye of my vigilant Friend. For my part, I am prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading without a vote if it is generally agreed by others that that is the right procedure, subject to the assurance which I have already received from you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that one of what I think to be the most important points of the debate can be fully discussed and ventilated on an appropriate occasion.

Mr. Wigg

There is a big difference between a Private Bill and a Public Bill on Second Reading. What is in this Bill has yet to be proved and, quite clearly, the promoters of the Bill, having gone as far as this, have a right that the Bill should be given a Second Reading so that the matter within it may be considered in Committee. I should have thought that the proper method was to divide against the Bill on Third Reading.

Mr. Swingler

On a point of order. May I draw to your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the fact that there is no Minister on the Treasury Bench and, apparently, nobody in charge of the Bill? Is not that contempt of the House?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Swingler

Is nobody in charge of the Bill?

Mr. Usborne: In view of the opinion expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, who is clearly an expert on these matters, I think the course which he suggests is right.

Mr. Ellis Smith:Is my hon. Friend aware that many, many times hon. Members have opposed the Second Reading of Private Bills and that we in North Staffordshire suffered when we were trying to municipalise our transport system because hon. Members representing the party opposite went into the Lobby against us?

Mr. Usborne

I am sure that there are bitter memories in North Staffordshire, because of the procedure which is followed in respect of Private Bills, but if I pursued that point I should be out of order.

I conclude by pointing out that there is an important aspect which has not yet been discussed. I think we must discuss it at length and in all seriousness and I look forward, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the moment when I shall catch your eye later.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)

The House has listened to some remarkable and varying speeches this evening, and not the least interesting part of the proceedings has been to see the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in the unaccustomed rôle of counsel of moderation. Instead of urging forward his more passive friends, a rôle to which he has become accustomed, he has tonight been seeking to restrain them and to guide them into paths of wisdom. I have a certain sympathy with him, because I know perfectly well how very difficult a task that is and how it will test his abilities if he is to succeed.

The hon. Member for Dudleyis right in what he says about a Private Bill. This is not a Government Bill; this has not been commended from the Treasury Bench. There is no question of the Government commending the Bill to the House, nor any question of confidence in the Government. The promoters of the Bill have no representation in a Second Reading debate in the House of Commons. They are able to put their case in Committee, according to the established procedure, but they have no representation of any sort, kind or description on the Floor of the House and there is no possibility of any provision for answering the sort of points put by hon. Members opposite in a Second Reading debate.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Walker-Smith

I will give way if hon. Members intervene one at a time.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

While it may be that no one has been officially deputed to speak on behalf of the promoters, or those who have instructed the promoters, surely it is not unreasonable to suppose that there is at least one hon. Member on the Government side of the House who is a friend of this institution and would like to say a kind word about it?

Mr. Usborne

May I put this point to the hon. Member? We are very perplexed about it. There is apparently no one on the Front Bench ready to reply.Would it not be appropriate if the Patronage Secretary were to speak on the matter? Surely he must have something to say about it.

Mr. Swingler

Is the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) asking the House to believe that, although this college is controlled by the Conservative Central Office, the authorities of the college have never approached any Member of the Conservative Party at all on the fact that they were sponsoring the Bill? Are we to believe that the liaison in the Conservative Party is so incompetent—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

These interventions are becoming second speeches.

Mr. Walker-Smith

If I may seek to reply to those varying points which were put to me just now, if my understanding is correct, the Conservative Party have not been in effective control of this college for a very long time prior to the introduction of the Bill.

Mr. Swingler


Mr. Walker-Smith

That is a fact. I should like to define my own position in connection with this matter. This college is in the county for which I have the honour to be one of the Members. My association with the college, I am afraid, is of the most tenuous. Unlike the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), I have not been invited to lecture there at any time. The hon. Member for Fulham, East made it clear that he and other hon. Members on that side of the House had been in the habit of addressing this college before the introduction of the Bill.

Mr. Stewart

It was not a habit.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not know how many times it takes to make a habit, but I heard the hon. Member say that the college invited him again, which was flattering to him.

I am rather disappointed in the hon. Member for Fulham, East. He has stated that when he was at school he was fortunate enough to have aschool master so wise as to impress upon his youthful intelligence that Socialism had always failed in practice, yet, in spite of that, he took so little advantage of his educational opportunities that he has persisted in error and has even sought to communicate it to others in after years.

The hon. Member may be able to inform the House as to what is the ratio of hon. Members on his side of the House who have been invited to speak at this college, prior to the change which it is proposed to make in the Bill and since 1945. We know that he has. We know that the hon. Member for Tottenham (Sir. F. Messer) has addressed them, as have other hon. Members. The hon.

Member for Stoke-ort-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has not yet been there, but no doubt he will receive an invitation after the Bill has been passed, and I will make a special point of trying to attend as a student when that occasion arises so as not to miss his lecture.

Mr. Ellis Smith

In that case, the hon. Member will never attend.

Mr. Walker-Smith

It is possible that the hon. Member will receive the invitation. Some of his hon. Friends have received invitations and have lectured there during the last seven years.

It is quite wrong for hon. Members opposite to suggest that this college is at present a Conservative college or has been a Conservative college since 1945. If it is not a Conservative college at present, under the present trustees, what possible likelihood can there be, despite the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Stafford, who I regret is now leaving the Chamber, that it will be a sort of crypto-Conservative college after the Bill has been passed, in clear breach of the statutory provisions which will be imposed upon it?

Mr. Swingler

My constituency is Newcastle-under-Lyme. May I point out that, in spite of all the hon. Member may have said about my colleagues who have been to the college—and we do not know how many hon. Members on his side of the House have been there—nevertheless the governing body, as set out in the Bill, is completely and deliberately dominated by the Conservative Party and includes the Prime Minister and Chairman of the Tory Party.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I apologise for getting the hon. Member's constituency wrong inadvertently. The hon. Member has quite mistaken the point. The point which I made was this. If at the time when the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Conservative Party were governors of this college, the hon. Member for Fulham, East and the hon. Member for Tottenham and others addressed the college, how could it be that in the future, when the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Conservative Party are no longer governors, there would be any less scope for hon. Members opposite or others holding their views to participate in the teaching of the college, provided that they, like the Conservatives, obey the proviso in Clause 6 of the Bill?

Mr. Woodburn

I believe that at the Conservative Conference the working man is allowed to make a speech, but that does not make the Conservative Party an impartial party.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I cannot quite follow the logic of that. I want to see this matter through, because it seems to me to be a point of major importance. It is conceivable that in the last eight years or so, in the post-war period, Ashridge has been conducting these specific courses with the body of governors and the trustees to whom hon. Members opposite object. I am submitting to the House that it is fantastic to suggest that there would be a retreat from that position when the college has been, as it were, de-Toryised. It is my hon. Friends and myself who ought to be complaining about this Bill, because it is we who are losing, or who have lost our Conservative college.

I only wish that I could ascribe it to the sentiments ofChristian charity on the part of hon. Members opposite that they are so reluctant that we should lose our college because, as the right hon. Gentle man says, they have so many on the other side. I want to put this point. So far as this accusation is concerned that there will be Conservative propaganda carried on at this college—

Mr. Swingler

Will the hon. Member address himself to the point. Who is in control of this college? I am not concerned about how the college may have been conducted in the last few years. But it is plain to us that seven out of 11 of the proposed governors are, the same as seven out of ten of the previous governors, acceptable to the Conservative Party. The controlling interest, therefore, remains with the Conservative Party.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I was coming to that point, but I did not want to be at all reluctant about giving way. The control is, of course, vested in the governors who are listed in Clause 2 of the Bill, but they exercise that control subject to the objects of the Corporation as set out in Clause 6. I would remind the House that the objects of the Corporation are for …the education of persons in economics political and social science political history with special reference to the development of theBritish Constitution and the growth and expansion of the Commonwealth and Empire and in such other subjects as the governors may from time to time determine calculated generally to enable the students to become profitable members of the nation and the Commonwealth;

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

Will the hon. Member tell me what is meant by profitable members of the nation and the Commonwealth"? Does that mean the landlord to whom my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) has been referring to recently?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not think that the wording is happily chosen. It has nothing to do, I imagine, with economics; it means the social good of desirable members of the Commonwealth. If that is the only point made about the objects, I think that the House can assume that the objects are pretty well drawn in the Bill. Now we come to the proviso: There shall be a rigid exclusion in the education given in the College of teaching calculated to support the policies of any political party and the general aim of the Corporation shall be to provide at the College education which shall be free from bias relating to party politics; If that means anything, and it is very clearly drafted, it means that it would be a clear breach of trust for there to be any teaching at that college directed to giving a preference to one political party over another. There can be no doubt about that whatever. So when the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), who has again left the Chamber, says that the governors have got control, it is, of course, control subject to the very strict and clear definition laid down in proviso.

The question which hon. Members opposite have to answer is this. Are they suggesting—because they come very nearto it—that the governors, and I am going to name three in number—Sir Norman Birkett, Lord Justice of Appeal, Lord Jowitt, the former Lord Chancellor, and Lord Oaksey, a Lord of Appeal—are, first, incompetent to understand the words of that inhibition or, secondly, that they would wilfully and knowingly commit a breach of trust in regard to it. Is any hon. Gentleman opposite going to answer "Yes" to those questions?

Mr. Woodburn

All that could be fulfilled in the direction that the hon. Member has outlined, but if the students are confined to people who come from the Conservative Party and they are taught how to run elections efficiently and how to do a whole lot of other things in regard to constitutional law, in the working of canvassing and many other things of that kind, which are quite impartial, it would nevertheless be very valuable to the Conservative Party.

Mr. Walker-Smith

If I may give a spot opinion, I should say that that would clearly be a breach of the trust imposedby Clause 6 of the Bill. Am I to assume that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that there would be no knowing breach of this provision by the governors constituted as they are? Does he accept that?

Hon. Members


Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I want to finish—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the hon. Member does not give way, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) must resume his seat.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Member was just making up his mind to give way.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I was glad to give way to the hon. Member, but I am seeking at the moment to get a direct answer to a direct question, either from the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire, who has had the courtesy to remain, or from the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, if he chooses to come back. Is the right hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member opposite prepared to answer those two questions?

Mr. I. O. Thomas

I will answer the two questions as one by putting another question. Would the hon. Member agree that if the right, specific and declared purpose of the Bill and of these proposals is to set up a non-party, non-political, non-sectarian—[An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsensical."]—college, such object will be achieved by the provisions of Clause 5? Would he not agree that there would be much more sense in the contention for the non-party, non-sectarian basis of such a college if, in addition to two governors to be appointed by the Executive Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, an Amendment were put down to include also two members of the Labour Party, two members of the Liberal Party, two members of the Communist Party and two members of the Salvation Army?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I remind hon. Members that it is the tradition of the House that the debate be conducted by speeches and not by cross-examination. These questions should not be allowed to develop into speeches.

Mr. Walker-Smith

That was a most extraordinary exercise on the part of thehon. Member. I put two specific questions and invited any right hon. or hon. Member opposite to answer them. There were no volunteers apart from the hon. Member for The Wrekin, who, I understood, rose to answer my questions, or, at least, one of them. Instead, he put a question of his own, which rather lost its point because he had apparently confused the provisions of the Bill with the original provisions for the appointment of governors under the original trust deed. And so the hon. Member's question, which might have had a great force and pungency in 1929, or whenever it was, rather loses in this debate that freshness of approach to which we are accustomed from him.

The House must take it on this main point that no hon. or right hon. Member opposite is prepared to say that the governors, and particularly those three governors, high luminaries of the law, whom I have specified, would either fail to understand the inhibition placed on them by that proviso or that they would wilfully disregard it and commita breach of trust.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I will answer that question. Those governors will be as impartial as the B.B.C. are in "Any Questions" or "In the News" on television.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Certainly; that is quite a good principle, and I am coming to that in a moment. What is clearly established, and this is the vital point for the House to consider, is that there is no suggestion whatever—and it ought to be repudiated by the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), if he is to address the House on behalf of his hon. Friends—that there would be any conscious political propaganda in breach of this provision under the Bill.

Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)

Does the hon. Member not appreciate that under astrict administration of the terms of the Clause, which he is defending, about the total exclusion of anything which could smell of direct party propaganda on one side or the other, one can get discussion and exposition of all those ideas which are conformable to a Conservative-Tory status quo outlook on life and cannot get one minute's discussion or exposition of any of the ideas which are conformable to a Socialist outlook on life?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member must not develop an intervention into a speech in that form.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt get an opportunity of saying all this. I was about to come to the points put to me by two hon. Members opposite. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Dudley, who made the initial speech in the debate, about the rigid exclusion of political opinions from a course of adult education. I am not so political as the hon. Member. [HON. MEMBERS"Oh!"] The hon. Member claims to be 100 per cent. political. I do not claim to be that, but I have some sympathy with the difficulty of the total exclusion of what might be called political discussion on the political implications of matters economic, social, cultural and so on.

The question then is, how can this proviso be adhered to withouthaving that somewhat anaemic effect which is feared by the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends? Presumably there would be no breach of this trust if there were a certain expression of political opinions so long as it was balanced. What this proviso says is that there is to be rigid exclusion of teaching calculated to support the policies of any political party, and then it goes on to say: Education…shall be free from bias relating to particular party politics. The word "bias" means that there is only one expression of opinion.

Sir R. Acland

This excludes any expression of political opinion.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The hon. Member is very confident about expressions of that kind, but I doubt whether it is so. I should have thought that if there was a balanced view there would not be bias. What the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South suggests is that it could be had in the way that we find it in some B.B.C. programmes like "Any Questions" and "In the News."

Sir R. Acland

Three Tories and one Labour.

Mr. Walker-Smith

There the party view is balanced. [HON. MEMBERS"Oh!"] Transport House is deluged with complaints that the Conservatives have been over-represented, and the Conservative Central Office is deluged with complaints that the Socialists have too much representation. That is always the way, but if it is designed to have a possible expression of political opinion without infringing the proviso as to political neutrality, that is the only way in which it could be done.

If there were any effort; at political propaganda on one side or the other, it would merely be a breach of the trust drawn up by these three great legal luminaries, whom no hon. Member opposite, I am glad to note, has accused of being likely to harbour any such thoughts.I want to say one further thing, and I am sorry to have been so long.

Hon. Members


Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

It is all right. Is it very amusing.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I just want to make this final point. I was a little bit shocked by what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields said about education. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that education was no use unless it was directed to a specific political or economic end. [HON. MEMBERS"No."] That is how my hon. Friends and I understood it. That is a narrow view of education which not so many years ago would have been thought to be a very wrong approach. After all, the object of education, as I have always understood it, is the seeking after knowledge and truth. If we lay down a predestined end to which that education must strive, we are limiting the approach of education and derogating from its value. That is why there is a great deal to be said for education free from its political context. What the hon. Gentleman is really advocating is propaganda rather than education.

Mr. Woodburn

But the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is a difference in the purpose of merely filling in the time of people by teaching them to be dilettante and doing nothing, and giving them an understanding of the world in which they live, which is, I understand, the avowed purpose of this college, so that when students leave they can understand the problems that will confront them. The college does not form conclusions for them.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman has now phrased it differently and much more acceptably to me. I accept that this is a proper approach, but, if he reads Hansard tomorrow, he will see that this is not quite what he said before.

We in the Conservative Party, who now have no connection with this college, and have not had for some years, might have thought ourselves to be the aggrieved parties. It is interesting to see the approach of hon. Gentlemen opposite to this question tonight. So far as the main attack has been made, the attack upon the governors and the possibility of their committing a breach of trust, it seems that that is not now pressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. In those circumstances, I think the House must accept that these desirable objects will be prosecuted with the freedom from bias which is laid down by the Bill. In those circumstances it would seem appropriate that the Bill should have its Second Reading, and that any improvements which fall to be made in it should be made by the ordinary procedure.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

We now know that the Chairman of the 1922 Committee is not a political person, but we have never observed the non-political part of him in this House yet. I am disappointed that there has been no speech from the Government Front Bench tonight because it is usual, on every Private Bill that is contested, for the Minister in charge of the Department affected to be present and to tender advice to the House. I have a fairly long experience of taking part in Private Bill discussions on the Floor of this House but I cannot recollect an occasion when that has not been the case.

I think that the points raised tonight, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), should have been commented on by one of the Ministers responsible for this Department; in fact, it seems to me just about the kind of thing on which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education might excel. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Send for him."] We are entitled to complain on that point.

I want to deal with the specific question put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith), who drew our attention to the specific wording of the proviso to Clause 6. In the first place, he seemed to pass lightly over the word "rigid." The proviso says: There shall be a rigid exclusion in the education given in the College of teaching calculated to support the policies of any political party…. The word "rigid" must have some meaning and I should have thought that thehon. Gentleman might, when he was trying to explain away the proviso, have dealt with it. I do not think that giving the policies of three or four different parties is conforming to the rigid exclusion from the education given in the college of teaching calculated to support the policies of any political party.

Mr. Walker-Smith

If the right hon. Gentleman asks my opinion, it is that the word "rigid"is, of course, quite tautological and redundant. A thing is either excluded or not. In my humble view, there is no force in the word. Taking the case which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, if one had three or four speakers with different political views

Division No. 35.] AYES [8.49 p.m.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Bowen, E. R. Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)
Arbuthnot, John Braine, B. R. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)
Assheton, Rt. Han. R. (Blackburn, W.) Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Cole, Norman
Baldwin, A. E. Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Colegate, W. A.
Banks, Col. C. Browne, Jack (Govan) Conant, Maj. R. J. E.
Barber, Anthony Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Cooper-Key, E. M.
Barlow, Sir John Bullard, D. G. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Baxter, A. B. Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Burden, F. F. A. Crouch, R. F.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Butcher, Sir Herbert Deedes, W. F.
Beamish, Philip (Bolton. E.) Campbell, Sir David Digby, S. Wingfield
Bishop, F. P. Carr, Robert Dodds-Parker, A. D.
Black, C. W. Cary, Sir Robert Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.
Bossom, Sir A. C. Channon, H. Doughty, C. J. A.

balancing out, as it were, one would have to look at the totality of the effect produced, and that would not be an effect …calculated to support the policies of any political party….

Mr. Ede

I noticed earlier in the evening that the Attorney-General had a conversation with the hon. Member. I rather gathered that he was giving the hon. Member some hints as to the proper way of dealing with this Bill, but I would not expect the Attorney-General to accept the parenthood of the explanation which the hon. Member has just given us.

The hon. Member also asked whether we imagined that the three distinguished lawyers whom he named would be a party to a breach of the trust, either by making a breach themselves or conniving at one. After all, they are only three out of 11. Suppose that they are voted down, what remedy have they? I suppose that they can apply for an injunction in the courts to restrain their colleagues—but that might be a somewhat expensive business—or they could resign. They might be driven to resignation and the remaining eight would then elect three to take their places.

Is this the kind of Bill that ought to receive a Second Reading? The promotersought to be here on oath, before a Committee. Then when we receive the Bill back on Third Reading we shall have to make up our minds whether we think that this Bill should go on the Statute Book or not. I understand that unless this debate ends by nine o'clock we cannot get to the Instructions. I therefore suggest to my hon. Friends that at this stage we ought to give the Bill a Second Reading and get on to the Instructions.

Question put.

The House divided

Ayes, 160; Noes, 96.

Douglas Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Linstead, Sir H. N. Roper, Sir Harold
Drayson, G. B. Llewellyn, D. T. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Drewe, Sir C. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Russell, R. S.
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Duthie, W. S. Low, A. R. W. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Scott, R. Donald
Ford, Mrs. Patricia Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Fort, R. McCallum, Major D. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T D. (Pollok) Macdonald, Sir Peter Stevens, G. P.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) McKibbin, A. J. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Maclean, Fitzroy Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Glover, D. Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Gomme-Duncan, Col A. MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Gough, G. F. H. Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Summers, G. S.
Gower, H. R. Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Graham, Sir Fergus Maude, Angus Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Gridley, Sir Arnold Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Medlicott, Brig. F. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Nabarro, G. D. N. Turner, H. F. L.
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Neave, Airey Turton, R. H.
Higgs, J. M. C. Nicholls, Harmar Vane, W. M. F.
Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Vosper, D. F.
Hirst, Geoffrey Nield, Basil (Chester) Wade, D. W.
Hollis, M. C. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Wall, P. H. B.
Horobin, I. M Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Hurd, A. R. Page, R. G. Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Wellwood, W.
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Pickthorn, K. W. M. William, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Iremonger, T. L. Pitt, Miss E. M. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Powell, J. Enoch Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Raikes, Sir Victor Wills, G.
Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Rayner, Brig. R. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Kaberry, D. Redmayne, M.
Lambert, Hon. G. Rees-Davies, W. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Renton, D. L. M. Mr. Walker-Smith and Mr. Grimston.
Legh, Hon, Peter (Petersfield) Robson-Brown, W.
Lindsay, Martin Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Awbery, S. S. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Proctor, W. T.
Bacon, Miss Alice Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Rankin, John
Beswick, F. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Rhodes, H.
Brockway, A. F. Jeger, Mrs. Lena Richards, R.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Roberts. Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Ross, William
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Keenan, W. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Champion, A. J. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Chapman, W. D. Lindgren, G. S. Simmons, C. J (Brierley Hill)
Coldrick, W. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Logan, D. G. Sparks, J. A.
Cullen, Mrs. A. McGhee, H. G. Swingler, S. T.
Davies, Harold (Leek) McInnes, J. Sylvester, G. O.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) McKay, John (Wallsend) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Deer, G. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Dodds, N. N. Mann, Mrs. Jean Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Manuel, A. C. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Fernyhough, E. Mason, Roy Timmons, J.
Fienburgh, W. Monslow, W. Viant, S. P.
Finch, H. J. Moody, A. S. Wallace, H. W.
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Warbey, W. N.
Forman, J. C. Mort, D. L. Watkins, T. E.
Gibson, C. W. Murray, J. D. Weitzman, D.
Gooch, E. G. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Oliver, G. H. West, D. G.
Griffiths, David (Rather Valley) Orbach, M. Wheeldon, W. E.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Oswald, T. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Hargreaves, A. Padley, W. E. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Holman, P. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Hubbard, T. F. Palmer, A. M. F. Woodburn, R. Hon. A.
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Pearson, A.
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Peart, T. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Plummer, Sir Leslie Sir Richard Acland and
Mrs. Slater.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Wigg

I beg to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to amend Clause 6, line 35, by inserting after the second "and,": local government and its development having special regard to the standing orders of the House of Commons relating to private business. Clause 6 of the Bill, to which the House has given a Second Reading, provides for the subjects which the governors are to provide at Ashridge College. It lays down that there shall be carried on the education of persons in economic, political and social science, and political history, with special reference to development of the British Constitution and the growth and expansion of the Commonwealth and Empire.

In these days it is held that a citizen who wishes to understand and play a full part in the community of which he is a member must havean understanding of local government procedure. It follows without question that, as this is the Mother of Parliaments, the competent citizens must understand the Standing Orders of the House, even though some hon. Members fall a little short in that respect. It is held that the competent citizen needs to understand not only the function of local government but also the Standing Orders of the House and, of course, he needs to understand the workings of the House in relation to—

Captain Charles Waterhouse(Leicester, South-East)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was in the Lobby, in readiness for the Division, but the Tellers left the door before I had gone through.

Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

Further to that point of order. Thesame thing occurred to me. I came through the Lobby, but there was no one to count me.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We have passed on to other business since then. Mr. Wigg.

Mr. Wigg rose

Captain Waterhouse

Further to that point of order. Would you be good enough, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to indicate to me what remedy I have, if any?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The objection must be taken before the figures are declared.

Mr. Wigg rose

Sir I. Fraser

Further to that point of order. Do you recall to mind, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as I do, the time when the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), Mr. George Buchanan and our very friendly colleague, the late Mr. Maxton, stood in the Lobby for a quarter of an hour singing songs? Nobody hurried them through, butthey were counted at the end. With all respect, may I ask why we were not counted?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That was a different point, and the point was raised at a different time.

Mr. Wigg rose

Sir Robert Perkins (Stroud and Thorn-bury)

Further to the point of order. My name was taken by the Clerk and, therefore, my vote has been recorded, but it has not been counted. What remedy have I?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

None at all, except, as far as I know, the consolation of philosophy, because it is too late toraise the point now. Mr. Wigg.

Mr. Wigg

I was making the point that it is necessary for a person who wants to play his full part in a democratic community to understand the workings of local government and to understand the rules of order of the House so far as they affect local government.

The Standing Orders of the House governing Private Business are very much greater in number and far more extensive than those dealing with Public Business. Of the 310 pages of our Standing Orders, 88 are given over to Public Business and the remainder to Private Business. It is many years since there has been any inquiry into the Private Business of the House. In 1930 a numerically weak Labour Administration set up a Select Committee to inquire into the workings of Private Bills, and a very good Report was produced. Those who served on the Committee had every reason to be proud of their work. They made a thorough examination of the workings of Private Bill procedure, and, as a result, the procedure was made much easier than it had been in the past and the cost was reduced.

I submit that the time has now come for a further inquiry. I do not want to go very much further than saying that, in my opinion, and in the opinion of all those to whom I have talked, there is now a reasonable case for an inquiry. I say quite frankly that I thought my case had been made for me a thousand times better than I could make it for myself in a leading article in "The Times"this morning, in which it is stated that the opinion is widely held that the procedure is cumbersome and expensive. It goes on to say that, if an inquiry were held, that inquiry might discover that the limit of human wisdom had been reached, so that nothing more can be done.

I have qualified what I have said by pointing out that that is as far as I want to go, except to say that as a result of the experience which I had last year in watching the procedure adopted on a Bill promoted by the Corporation of Dudley, which town I have the honour to represent, I was convincedthat there was a case for examination by a Joint Committee to consider Private Bills. In saying that, I am saying nothing novel—

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

On a point of order. I cannot see the relation between what the hon. Gentleman is saying and the Instruction which he is moving.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman developing his argument, and I do not quite know where it is leading.

Mr. Wigg

I was saying that the argument I was advancing is nothing novel, and ifthe hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) does not know how I am in order in doing so, I will give him a lecture after our proceedings have finished and not charge him for it, pointing out the extent to which I am in order. The hon. andgallant Gentleman has only just come into the House, and my Instruction is to the Governors of Ashridge College to the effect that that college shall study local government. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at the Order Paper, he will see thatit relates to the development of the college, having special regard to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons relating to Private Business. I am now arguing that one of the things that will have to be studied is the extent to which Private Business procedure in this House is out of date and the extent to which that procedure needs to be inquired into.

I am suggesting that one of the things which students at Ashridge will have to look at is the proceedings which took place in this House on 19th March, 1900, when the then Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Lowther, who afterwards became Mr. Speaker, advanced the argument that there ought to be a Joint Private Bill procedure because of the intolerable position in which local authorities found themselves. I do not want to quote at length, because hon. Members will be able to read the proceedings in Hansard of 19th March, 1900, when Mr. Lowther pointed out that a Bill, which affected the boundaries of two authorities, which secured a majority of 162, whichwas passed unanimously on Third Reading, which had involved the expenditure of many thousands of pounds, went to another place, where it touched on a special interest, and that was the end of it. There are many hon. Gentlemen here whose authorities in much more modern times have had the same experience.

In the leading article in "The Times" this morning, it was pointed out that the justification for local legislation is that it had become a laboratory of social law, and the article quotes the experiments which Birmingham and other local authorities have carried out in various directions, including the closing of streets in order that children may be able to play, which have subsequently found their way into Private Bills. That is how democracy works, and this House ought to see that Private Bills are not used as a back door for altering the general law. If the policy of controlled experiment succeeds, well and good. Later, it could be embraced in a Public Act, giving the sanction to all authorities. If it fails, it will wither and die.

It seems to me to be a pragmatic, commonsense and rational approach to say that the time has now come, not to say that there is this or that wrong with the Private Bill procedure, but to emphasise that it is 25 years out of date and that there is a widespread feeling that it is both cumbersome and grievously expensive. If an inquiry were held, and it came to the conclusion that those fears were groundless, the time would not have been wasted.

I want to turn to another matter. When I spoke earlier this evening I referred to the regretted absence of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who is not with us at the moment, although I gave him notice yesterday as soon as I knew that this opportunity was likely to arise. I repeated my notice in writing.

Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)

On a point of order. How is the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) related to the Instruction which the hon. Member is moving?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not know, as yet, what the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is going to say about the absence of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). As I understand, the Motion is related to Clause 6 and is in the form of an Instruction that the college authorities shall have the duty of considering the form of Private Bill legislation. That Instruction is in order. What the hon. Member is going to say after that I do not know

Sir H. Butcher

As you have just said that you are not clear what the hon. Gentleman is going to say, and since the hon. Gentleman started his speech before nine o'clock, is there not the danger of his committing the offence of irrelevance?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

So far, the hon. Member for Dudley has kept himself in order. The Motion he has been discussing is related to Clause 6, and so far is in order. He is now making a reference to something about the hon. Member for Croydon, East. What he is going to say about that hon. Member I have no idea.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

How much longer are we to have these criticisms from hon. Members on the Government side of your conduct of this debate, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think that that was intended as a criticism of myself.

Mr. Manuel

It was implied.

Mr. Wigg

I was genuinely regretting the absence of the hon. Member for Croydon, East because, as he has told the House on many occasions, and has told the world at large, he is the great authority on Private Bill procedure.

I should have thought that one of the first things that the governors of Ash-ridge College would do would be to have the hon. Member on their staff. I do not think he would be much loss to us. If the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) wants to know thepoint which I am making, it is that the hon. Member for Croydon, East should be invited to join the staff of Ashridge College; but that is not all my case by any means.

I find that on 16th February, 1938, there was a debate on the Second Reading of the Guildford Bill, and that on that occasion the spokesman for my party was my right hon. Friend who is now sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He then said that he wanted to know how much longer it was to goon that a small group of self-appointed people, of whom the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) was the chief, were going to take unto themselves work which was normally reserved for a Committee of the House. The work they were undertaking was what they called "the specialised study of opposed Bills." I shall not refer to the actual words which were used by my right hon. Friend in regard to the hon. Member for East Croydon, but they were pretty strong words.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Now refer to the North Staffs Transport Bill.

Mr. Wigg

If my hon. Friend waited, he would find that the North Staffs Bill had not been forgotten in these proceedings, and that he could with advantage play his part in this part of the debate which will make it difficult for such things to happen again. In 1938, we had the hon. Member for Croydon, East and some of his hon. Friends taking unto themselves powers which should be properly exercised only by a Select Committee. I think that Members in all parts of the House have suffered in consequence.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields made allegations against the hon. Memiber for Croydon, East and his friends, and some of those allegations were denied. We have to wait from 1938 until 19th January, 1954, when the hon. Member for Croydon, East, wrote a letter to "The Times"admitting just those things with which he had been charged in this House in 1938. In that letter he said: Twenty years ago, Sir Reginald CroomJohnson and I formed a small group of Members of Parliament for the purpose of perusing Private Bills with a view to eliminating from them fussy interference with private liberty, and I think we have achieved a good deal of success. It depends, of course, on what one means by "success," but there is no doubt that the hon. Member for Croydon, East has been an intolerable nuisance and that he has successfully held up the passage of Private Bills.

There has recently been a controversy about a Bill corning from Birmingham. I will not enter into the details, but the hon. Member for Croydon, East points out that, even if the citizens of Birmingham had not succeeded in halting the Bill in its course and deleting several Clauses, he and his hon. Friends—I do not know who they are—would have done the same before the House.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Wigg

It may be "Hear, hear," but hon. Members should get up.

I do not want to go into the rights of Birmingham; hon. Members from Birmingham can make their speeches. The hon. Member for Croydon, East has, on his own admission, exercised an influence on Private Bill procedure which is unhealthy, anti-democratic, and which, in my opinion, should be stopped. One of the ways to stop it is to have an inquiry, with teams of reference agreed in the normal fashion between the two Front Benches.

Captain Duncan

On a point of order. It seems to me that the hon. Member is getting far away from the Instruction which he is moving.

Mr. Speaker

The Instruction draws attention to the necessity for instruction in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons for the raising of Private Business. I thought the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was getting a little wide of that. Perhaps he will confine himself more strictly to it, but so far as I can see he was still in order.

Mr. Wigg

Both in what I say and in spirit I am certainly the last to stray outside the rules of order. I have tried to keep inside them here and do not want to stray an inch outside.

But here, by my Instruction, I am seeking that the people responsible for Ashridge should undertake the study of the Private Bill procedure and Standing Orders of this House. It follows from that that they will see where things are wrong, and one of the things which is wrong is the hon. Member for Croydon, East—and I am going on with that until such time as the electors, who alone have the power, can deal with it. Until that blessed moment arrives, the two Front Benches, in order to strengthen, and not cheapen, the respect of the House, should institute an inquiry. I would suggest a Select Committee from both sides of the House.

Sir H. Butcher

On a point of order. The hon. Member is moving an Instruction to insert certain words into a Private Bill. He is now on that argument. I venture to say that he is not in order to request a Committee of both sides of the House.

Mr. Woodburn

Is it not perfectly reasonable to argue that, since there is great ignorance as to the way in which this procedure is working, a Select Committee should be appointed to ascertain the facts and present them to Ashridge College?

Mr. Speaker

The argument is a little far-fetched. The hon. Member for Dudley is entitled to advance arguments why the Standing Orders of the House of Commons relating to Private Businessshould be made a special subject of study in this college, but he cannot carry his arguments very far beyond that.

Mr. Wigg

I do not want to go one syllable beyond that. My case is that Private Bill procedure should be studied in Ashridge College and, todo that intelligently and to be able to understand what has happened during the last 20 years, it will have to look with care at what the hon. Member for Croydon, East has been up to.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is laying too much stress upon the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). I do not imagine that it is his intention that Ashridge College should pay particular attention to the hon. Member for Croydon, East.

Mr. Wigg

I am giving no more importance to the hon. Member for Croydon, East than he gives to himself. My case consists of a two-pronged attack. I am drawing attention to what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields said in 1938 and to what the hon. Member for Croydon, East said on 19th January of this year, which completely bears out what my right hon. Friend said about the Member for Croydon, East.

Mr. Speaker

It is high time that the two prongs of the hon. Member's attack converged upon the subject of his Instruction.

Mr. Wigg

The way to deal with this matter—

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

—is to get rid of the hon. Member for Croydon East (Sir H. Williams).

Mr. Wigg

—until the happy moment arrives when the electors do their duty, is for the two Front Benches to agree that after 24 years the time has come to appoint a Select Committee to deal with this question. My case rests completely on "The Times"leading article of this morning. It would be wrong of me to suggest that a Select Committee, if it were set up, would be able to produce revolutionary changes, or that it would make slashing cuts in costs. The Committee would have to consider the rights of the objectors.

Sir E. Boyle

I fail to see how the Instruction which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is moving can entail the appointment of any Select Committee. Clause 6 of the Bill is concerned solely with what should be studied by the students at Ashridge College, and I fail to see how any Select Committee of this House can be involved in that.

Mr. Speaker

The appointment ofa Select Committee by this House ought to be undertaken on a Motion directed to that specific purpose. The hon. Member for Dudley has made his point, that Standing Orders of the House relating to Private Business require further study by the House and by Ashridge College. If I understand him, that is the sole link of relevance between his speech and the Instruction, so he should take my hint and draw his remarks to a close.

Mr. Wigg

I accept that Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was drawing my remarks to a close. I had made the point which I wished to make, that there is a case for an inquiry, so that the future students at Ashridge College may be properly instructed. It seems to me that some hon. Members opposite should go to that college for fairly lengthy courses, in order to get the benefit of the inquiry which I hope will come about as a result of our proceedings tonight.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. Swingler

I beg to second the Motion.

The time will come when the borough of Dudley will be included in the great county of Stafford. Staffordshire will welcome the energetic Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg but, at the moment, a Private Bill for that purpose would be vastly too expensive for that comparatively poor county. We on this side of the House want to improve the Bill.As the House has given it a Second Reading, we are anxious that the scope of the Bill, and in particular of Clause 6, should be extended, just as we are anxious that the political balance of the governors of Ashridge should be altered in order to give some guarantee of effective education in the college.

As the new college is being formed, we are particularly concerned to emphasise the need for study of the procedure and business of the House, because we believe that students of all adult educational colleges, and particularly students of this new college, can contribute towards the improvement of the procedure of the House. Everybody knows that at the moment the Private Bill procedure is a scandal. When I say, "everybody knows it,"I mean those who have studied it and those who have had some experience of it, particularly those who represent local authorities with recent experience of it, whose ratepayers have had to pay thousands of pounds as a result of the fantastic procedure through which these Private Bills have to go.

Sir H. Butcher

On a point of order. Is it in order to refer to the rules of procedure of the House and its Standing Orders, under which Private Business is conducted, in words such as those which the hon. Member has used—on the one hand, the word "scandal," and on the other hand, the word "fantastic"?

Mr. Speaker

I think the expression "scandal"was too strong. We have to remember that the promoters of these Private Bills which we are discussing have all complied with our Standing Orders. It is not their fault that their Bills are being subjected to this scrutiny tonight. They have done what the Standing Orders provide. If there is any fault in the Standing Orders it is a fault with this House and not with the promoters.

Mr. Swingler

I am sorry if I transgressed the rules of order, and I withdraw anything I said which did so. What I meant to suggest, quite seriously, was that in my opinion it is scandalous that the ratepayers of Staffordshire, for example, should have to pay thousands of pounds for the purpose of an argument about the boundary between Staffordshire and Worcestershire involving a couple of hundred of acres—something which recently occurred in the House of Commons. I think it is in order to suggest that the procedure in the House is in need of reform, and that it is worthy of study for the purpose of suggesting how it might be reformed speedily in order to save ordinary citizens of the country from the payment of thousands of pounds on comparatively petty and trivial arguments which sensible people could deal with very quickly.

I am simply answering the question of why we suggest in the Instruction that this subject is particularly worthy of study. We have to produce an argument showing why we think that thequestion of local government reform and the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, relating to problems of local government, should be particularised in the Bill, and why we wish to instruct the Committee accordingly. We say it should be done because that is a part of the procedure of this House which is in urgent need of reform. It needs reform because of the terribly costly procedure and the thousands of pounds being paid out, which local authorities cannot afford; and because it is obstructive to real progress in local government.

We say that when an opportunity presents itself, as it does in this case, those who are serious students of political science should pay attention to the subject immediately. In particular, if there are any students of political science in the House, especially on the Front Benches, they should immediately pay attention to the urgent question of reforming this procedure.

9.29 p.m.

Mr. M. Stewart

I rise only for a few moments, in order to say that it would be an excellent thing if students at Ashridge studied the procedure of the House, particularly as it relates to Private Bills. I can see, however, one difficulty that they may have in doing so. The necessary information which students who devote themselves to this subject would have to acquire is to be found scattered in many different books and documents. It is not reasonable to ask students to pursue the work of research which is more properly pursued by learned men devoting their whole time to learning.

If, therefore,as I think would be very desirable, students at Ashridge are to be enabled to study the proceedings of this House relating to Private Bills, we must hope that some convenient form of up-to-date information on that topic will be made available to them. From my experience of adult education, I have found that Blue Books and Parliamentary Papers of many kinds are of great value to students in providing up-to-date information on a single topic: so I feel that if we were to ask the students of Ashridge to devote particular attention to the Standing Orders of this House on Private Bill procedure, it would be of great value to enable them to do so if there was a Select Committee set up to inquire into the Private Bill procedure of this House.

I am not speaking of the value that the report of such a Select Committee might have to the House itself in the governing of the country because that would be out of order, but I stress the value that the appointment of such a Select Committee and its report would be to students at Ashridge whom we are considering at the moment, and I am happy to be associated with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), not only in urging that students at Ash-ridge should study this subject, but that a Select Committee should be appointed to examine the Private Bill procedure of this House which, quite apart from its value to the country at large would be of great assistance to the students at Ashridge.

9.33 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I do not know how closely students at Ashridge read reports of the proceedings of this House, but I must say that if they study our proceedings this evening they will find them of considerable interest. They are in one respect more fortunate than myself. I always find it rather difficult, in the seat which I usually occupy in this Chamber, to hear very distinctly what the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) says, but the students of Ashridge will be able to read what he says in the Official Report.

I do not think that anyone has given any very convincing reason why the students at Ashridge should have as a special study local government and its development with special reference to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. There have been quite a number of subjects suggested in the course of time as being the most useless of all branches of knowledge. Someone once said that heraldry was one of the most useless of all branches of knowledge. I must say that for the ordinary person going through an adult education course to carry on some ordinary activity of life afterwards, I can think of few subjects of less general utility than the Private Bill procedure in the House of Commons.

It may be that the students of Ashridge will disagree with me about this. I should have thought, however, that the number of occasions in life in which it was really useful to have a thorough knowledge of Private Bill procedure in the House of Commons was very limited, unless one was actually a Member of this House or an official on the staff of this House.

There is one other comment which I should like to make on the speeches which we have just heard. Anyone who reads, as I have read, Clause 6 (a) of this Bill will realise that the primary object of the Corporation of Ashridge is to interest students, not only in the affairs of this nation, but in the affairs of the British Commonwealth and Empire as well. It is quite clear that the main object of the Corporation is to encourage peoplenot to have too parochial an outlook, but to take a real interest in the British Dominions and Her Majesty's Government in other territories in all parts of the globe.

I can imagine few things more calculated to encourage just that parochial outlook whichAshridge is intended to avoid than too much concentration on private Bills. Surely no one could be made a more useful citizen of the Commonwealth by being made to study for several weeks the precise relationships between one local authority and another and the precise line where one local authority boundary should be withdrawn.

I suggest that if we carry this, as I believe, ill-considered Instruction tonight we shall be carrying out exactly the opposite of what the Corporation of Ashridge intended. It is my belief, hearing the speeches tonight, that the terms in which paragraph (a) of Clause 6 are drawn are already sufficiently wide, and that if it is thought useful for the students of Ashridge to have some knowledge of constitutional law, there are alreadyample words in that paragraph which will enable them to have that knowledge. I do not believe it would be useful for this House to add those words to that paragraph simply because some hon. Members desire to try to raise certain points which they do not think they will have a more constitutional or useful occasion for raising.

9.37 p.m.

Mr. Usborne

I am very glad to have the good fortune to follow the hon. Member for Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), because I think that in some of the things I am about to say Ishall find, strangely, that he agrees with me. I confess, however, that on some of the things which the hon. Member has said I cannot find myself in agreement with him.

To keep strictly in order, I must make it plain that I support the Instruction so as to encourage those at Ashridge College very seriously to study the political and social sciences and political history, particularly with special reference to the development of the British Constitution.

We are dealing, in these Private Bills, with a peculiar and important facet of the British Constitution, which Ashridge should carefully study.

Furthermore, I believe that this matter is profoundly important, although it is an extremely awkward and intractable form of procedure to raise it, and for this reason. We here in Britain are inclined sometimes to assume that the political system which we operate—and which we operate, I submit, superlatively successfully—is one which other people should automatically understand and copy. We fail sometimes to realise that at this precise moment democracy is not by any means accepted throughout the world as the best system. It is under challenge. It is important, therefore, that we should ensure that the system works.

The most serious criticism generally levelled against democrats and against democracy is levelled by those who would support Fascist, Nazi or Communist theories. It is because of the attitude that democracy in theory is a fine thing but it simply does not work, cannot produce the goods in time and cannot cope with the modern complex civilisation, that those who level the criticism advocate an entirely different system.

Here we have a very complex system, which stems from an Act passed in 1933, which, in turn, I understand, stems from an Act, the Borough Funds Act, of 1872. I suggest that the directors of Ashridge should examine precisely how this procedure—Part XIII of the Local Government Act, 1933—operates in relation to Private Bills, particularly those initiated by corporations.

I should like to illustrate the point by describing what has recently happened in Birmingham. This, on 7th January last, was a classic example of how not to operate democracy. I want to say here, quite distinctly, that I am not now concerned with that procedure. I am not concerned, and this is absolutely honest, with attacking it because a Bill that was initiated and supported by a Labour-controlled council was for the large part defeated at a poll by the electors. I am not concerned with the meritsor demerits of the Bill itself, but I am greatly concerned with the procedure.

In supporting this Instruction, I want to explain the nature of this procedure because it is this procedure which I want the directors at Ashridge so carefully to examine.Let us see how it works in relation to the initiation of a corporation Bill before it reaches this place. The Bill has to be drafted and passed through by the council itself. When the council has finished its Bill and wishes to send it to Parliament the first thing it has to do is to submit it to the Minister. The Minister himself may not approve the Bill for 10 days thereafter. During that time he has to wait in order to know whether there are any petitions from local electors drawing his attention to parts of that Bill which they do not like.

The point is that no corporation Bill can even come here unless the Minister approves of it. So there is already a check in one place bicamerally by actions which might be boisterous on the part of another assembly—the central national assembly acting as a second chamber of the local parliament or council.

If the Minister, after 10 days, has approved the draft Bill the council is obliged to advertise the object of the Bill and, in those advertisements and placards, to announce that a town meeting will be held at which all the electors in the corporation area are invited to attend, and the substance and the objects of the Bill are there to be explained to the electors. This is a point which I want the directors of Ashridge to realise. In the case of Birmingham, we had to announce that a particular corporation Bill would be explained in the town hall, a hall which could seat only approximately 2,000 people, whereas there are 720,000 electors in Birmingham. So, three-quarters of a million electors were invited to attend a meeting in a town hall which could seat only 2,000. That is the first point.

The second point is that at the town meeting the substance of the Bill is explained and the Bill may then be, as it were,put to the vote and a vote can be taken. If those who stack the meeting—and it is generally recognised that it can be stacked—then decide to vote against any Clause or against the Bill as a whole, the corporation or council can then reinstate the Bill or the Clause therein only by demanding that it be voted upon at a town poll at which all the polling stations are brought into use.

Note another anomaly out of this. A vote is taken at the town hall meeting, which is virtually a legislative one.

Theoretically, only the electors are entitled so to vote. Only 2,000 out of three-quarters of a million can get there, but there is no procedure whatever to examine the credentials of the individuals who vote. They may come not from Birmingham at all but from all over the United Kingdom because there is no possibility of discovering who they are, or whether they are on the electoral register.

The town meeting, therefore, is, in the first place, a complete farce. Let us suppose, as happened in Birmingham, that the town meeting votes against a certain Clause. The council itself can ask to put that Clause then to the Corporation poll, which it did and has to do, not fewer than 14 days or more than 28 days after the holding of the town meeting. This, infact, went to a town poll which was held on 7th January. Six Clauses had to be voted upon by the electorate, an electorate of three-quarters of a million—

Captain Duncan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would this speech not be better directed by the hon. Gentleman to the students of Ashridge than to this House?

Mr. Speaker

I was thinking that this discussion is using a very narrow peg on which to hang a very wide debate. We are dealing with Ashridge College at the moment, and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has moved this Instruction so that special attention should be paid to local government, but that does not support the argument that the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne) is supporting now. I would ask the House to confine itself to the substance of the Instruction.

Mr. Ellis Smith

My hon. Friend has outlined the procedure that has to be adopted by local authorities and was giving concrete examples of the difficulties that face local authorities in operating the Private Bill procedure. Those of us who have suffered as a result of this procedure welcome the suggestion that an examination should be made of it, and all my hon. Friend is doing is explaining it and giving concrete examples of it.

Mr. Speaker

Examination must be made in this House ultimately, but the students of Ashridge College are power- less to alter our Standing Orders or to legislate on these matters Whilst it is in order, a the hon. Member for Dudley did, to raise the general topic of reconsideration of these things by the House, I think that mentioning instances, examples and anomalies in the local government structure is far outside the scope of this Instruction.

Mr. M. Stewart

I would draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the hon. Member for Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle), in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, suggested that the Private Bill procedure of the Commons was not a useful subject for the ordinary citizen, and as I follow my hon. Friend's argument, he is putting it that it is a subject which has a vital effect on the lives of the citizens of this country. Would he not be in order in developing that view to answer the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Handsworth?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think so. I do not think that two blacks ever make a white.

Mr. Shurmer

In view of the statement made by the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) on the expense of the Birmingham Corporation Bill, which will come forward shortly, and the waste of time by the city of Birmingham, what procedure can we adopt to prevent the blocking of that Bill by the hon. Member for Croydon, East?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is raising the major point which the hon. Member for Dudley thought ought to be inquired into. That is a matter for a Motion specifically directed to that end. I do not think that this Private Bill supports an argument of this width and scope.

Mr. Usborne

I bow with respect to your judgment, Mr. Speaker, and I realise that this is rather a small peg on which to hang a very important argument. But it is in the nature of the British Constitution that there are occasions when in Parliament a subject is approached by rather devious ways, and it is that delicacy of Parliamentary democracy which makes the thing work. I agree that it must seem remarkably obtuse to the uninitiated. I was trying very hard to keep within the rules of order, and I purposely did not attempt to duplicate any of the examples given.

I will conclude that particular aspect by pointing out that it was a very expensive and, in my view, totally undemocratic method of carrying out the decision of the electorate, precisely because it does not work out in practice. It is also extremely expensive. I should like to come back much nearer to the rules of order and ask once again that the directors of Ash-ridge should note carefully, ponder and examine the memorandum issued by the Association of Municipal Corporations which, in this context, found in 1951 that there is a case for the revision of the present method of promoting local legislation It goes on to point to a list of the various Bills which have been promoted and to argue much more cleverly than I have done how ludicrous and absurd the whole procedure is and how it could be improved on.

Sir H. Butcher

Is the hon. Member correct in referring to the procedure of this House as ludicrous and absurd?

Mr. Speaker

I did not take it in that sense.

Mr. Usborne

Whether it is correct to say that it is ludicrous or not happens to be a matter of opinion. I happen to thinkthat it is ludicrous in this connection, and I do not think that you, Mr. Speaker, will rule that that is extra-Parliamentary. It is on this question one of the most ludicrous procedures still extant in our Parliamentary democracy, and I think that it should be examined. I do not wish to press the point in my own words, because it has been put recently much more ably. I would choose two or three phrases from a speech made in this House and commend them to the House and to the directors of Ash ridge. On 11th February these words were spoken by an hon. Member: We have always stood by the policy of local government, and I suggest…that particular objectors, who have voted people on to the rural council, the county council and the planning committee, really have not much complaint afterwards if those representatives decide to vote in favour of a particular proposal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1954; Vol. 523, c. 1508.] He was arguing that if 2.8 per cent. of the electors disagreed with a proposal it was not fair to say that it should not be proceeded with.

Mr. Speaker

I really cannot see what this has to do with Ashridge.

Mr. Usborne

It has perhaps little or nothing to do with Ashridge, but I wanted the directors of Ashridge to examine it, because these words were spoken by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, whom we wish more than anybody else to consider this procedure.

9.52 p.m.

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

I should Like to add a Scottish voice in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in suggesting that, when the new college is established, it would be very useful for the directors of Ashridge to look closely into this matter of Private Bill procedure in relation to local government. I put forward a personal reason for this, in that if Ashridge College is established on the non-political and non-sectarian basis suggested to us from the benches opposite, I should be very glad to partake of some of its tuition on matters of Private Bill procedure and local government, because my interest in this subject arises from the fact that I sat recently on a Private Bill Committee of this House to discuss a Bill relating to Dudley. I found it a fascinating experience which Iwould not have liked to have missed.

I found that a great deal of that experience was highly repetitious, however, because the proceedings had already taken place in another place. I found also that it was very expensively repetitious for certain of the local authorities involved. It thus seems to me that the directors of Ashridge College in giving attention to this matter would do very well to look at the Scottish example in relation to Private Bills, because in Scotland, under Acts of Parliament which date back to the end of the 19th century, there is a Joint Committee to deal with private legislation and one avoids the unnecessary and expensive duplication of putting a Private Bill through both Houses of Parliament.

The Scottish example has one other great advantage over English procedure. Since 1936 the Scottish Committee of Inquiry into any Private Bill, or Provisional Order as it is called under Scottish procedure, has been transferred to Scotland and takes place locally. I speak with feeling on the matter because, while I gained an intimate knowledge of Dudley and Staffordshire on the Committee, it was entirely a photographic knowledge and a knowledge of maps; one could have done one's work more effectively in the physical surroundings of the problems that the Bill posed.

I would suggest to the House that this would be a most useful subject to be discussed by Ashridge College when the curriculum is being established. Not only would they find great benefit from the labours of a Select Committee of this House, but they would also find great advantage from studying what has been very successfully followed with typical Scottish economy for a long time north of the Border.

9.57 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

It may be useful if I may say a word as Leader of the House. It has been quite obvious from the ran of the discussion that there has been less enthusiasm for inserting this particular provision into the curriculum of Ashridge College than for raising the general issue of Private Bill procedure—[HON. MEMBERS"Hear, hear."] I am glad to realise that my judgment, apparently, is right, because the speech made by the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne) and his description of what happened at Birmingham would not be a very pro found matter of study for a very long time?

Mr. Usborne

Why not?

Mr. Crookshank

Because it has nothing to do with Private Bill procedure. It is the local government Acts against which the hon. Member ought to be inveighing. That is part of the problem, admittedly, but, if we said they were to consider the Standing Orders of the House on Private Business none of the matters the hon. Member was describing would arise.

Mr. M. Stewart

That is not what my hon. Friend was asking, but that the question of local government as whole should be considered.

Mr. Crookshank

The gist of the discussion has been on Private Bill procedure. I cannot intervene in the disputes between the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). I am sure I shall be acquitted of wanting to enter that field. The allegation has been made that the procedure is cumbersome and expensive. But we ought always to remember that some sort of procedure of this kind is likely to be—I do not know whether "cumbersome"is the right word—prolonged, because the object is to adjudicate between private rights, whether as between private individuals or a corporation like that we are discussing under the Bill, or between local authorities.

Mr. Ellis Smith

We accept that it is a different matter.

Mr. Crookshank

It is a different matter and public legislation has to be gone into with very great care. I had no knowledge before that there was any great desire for a revision of this matter. Considerable changes were made in 1930 and, as our Order Paper shows, almost every Session the rules are slightly changed. I think that the last change was in October when Amendments were made. So it goes on: it is an expanding field, not limited, for all time. I would not advise the House to agree to this Instruction because I think it would be a little hard on the college to be the only one by Parliament directed to subject its students to a profound study of this very esoteric private matter. I would not advise the passing of the Instruction for that purpose.

Although the revision was made in 1930 and although Standing Orders have constantly changed since, I have, in fact, had no indication that there was any general desire for this change. But, as is my duty, I shall, of course, note everything that has been said here today.

Mr. Wigg

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.