HC Deb 17 November 1955 vol 546 cc899-900

Order for Second Reading read.

9.59 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is a Bill to validate the election of Mr. Charles Howell, who was elected a Member for Perry Barr, and to relieve him of all penal consequences incurred by sitting as a voting Member of this House while holding an office of profit. I hope that this will be the last occasion upon which anyone has to move the Second Reading of a Bill of this character.

I should make it clear that when Mr. Howell was appointed he received a communication telling him that no fees were payable to him, but that strictly, under the Acts under which he was appointed, it lay within the power of the Minister to provide for the payment of fees. Therefore, the office was clearly one of profit and a Select Committee which was appointed to consider the matter came to that conclusion. The Select Committee recommended that a Bill of this character should be introduced. That is the reason why the Government have brought it forward at the earliest possible opportunity, with the hope that it will pass through all its stages this evening.

10.1 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

There can be no doubt that the Bill ought to receive the unanimous support of the House. I would merely like to call attention to two facts, one of which has been mentioned already by the Attorney-General, that is to say, that in the Ministerial notice inviting this gentleman to take up this small office it was clearly stated that no fees are payable. If, of course, he had had to investigate the possibilities he would have had to go behind that notice and look up the two rather long statutes from which he could have found that fees could be paid by the Minister, with the consent of the Treasury.

The second point, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman may have mentioned already, is that, in fact, in no circumstances was any remuneration whatever received by Mr. Howell. I hope that when we come to consideration of the principles of this matter, as we shall have to do soon in Committee, we shall bear this case in mind.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

The Select Committee was unanimously of the opinion that there should be complete exoneration of Mr. Howell, and after hearing him we were convinced that he was in no way to blame for the unfortunate sequence of events in which he found himself involved. In fact, it was from his original inquiry that the case first came to light.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Legh.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed.