HC Deb 10 December 1958 vol 597 cc389-404

5.49 p.m.

Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)

It is good to have this opportunity of raising the subject of a petrol station, especially after the noise and filibustering which occurred the week before last, and also to be able to have all the time until half-past ten to discuss the subject, although I hope that I shall be able to deal with it in slightly less time than that.

It was most unfortunate that last Friday week the Opposition prevented me from raising this question of a petrol station in Kirby Road near Frinton-on-Sea, especially when what is at issue is not so much a decision about a petrol station, important locally as it is, but the important political principle, Does the man in Whitehall know best? "I cannot believe that my hon. Friend will not be considerate when he has studied the full facts of this case again. I know that he deals with a great number of these cases and that no decision has ever been revoked before, but it is perfectly possible for him, technically, to do this.

I am most grateful to have this second opportunity of raising what I regard as certain most disturbing features concerning the judgment of the Minister in going against the advice of the Frinton Urban District Council and, indeed, the advice of his own inspector, in allowing the appeal of the Esso Petroleum Company for this petrol station. The Minister knows that this is the second time within a year that I have challenged his judgment in going against the advice of the local authorities on the spot. I do not challenge the Minister's authority to override his inspector's recommendation. What I criticise is his judgment in doing so in this instance, and the manner in which he did it.

The inspector saw the site and heard all the arguments. For my part, after reading the inspector's report and the advice given by the Minister in his own circular No. 25/58, dated 1st April, 1958, I an amazed at the Minister's decision. Indeed, after the decision, many people asked themselves whether we had not been made "April fools" by the Minister's circular of 1st April. The circular was issued in reply to my Question in the House on 1st April asking for clarification of policy regarding the exercise of the Minister's control over the siting and establishment of new garages. It is worth while recording that the Parliamentary Secretary said to me on that occasion that I should find

that the situation will be much improved when this guidance is followed "— that is, the guidance in the circular, This was after I had asked him, in a supplementary question, whether he was aware of the concern of some small garage men because of the action of some of the larger petrol companies. Can he take steps to ensure that a garage war does not develop between small and large garages, and that adequate protection is given against monopolistic tendencies?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1958; Vol. 585. c. 1017–8.] In paragraph 9 of the circular to which I have referred the Minister states: If no strong case is made out on grounds of traffic need, then planning objections may become decisive. No strong case could be made out on grounds of traffic need for the Esso Company, as there were no fewer than ten stations in the area already, while others are available within a comparatively short distance. In the circular, even in respect of new by-passes and roads, it is said that the Minister of Transport takes the view that, normally, a petrol station should be unnecessary on a stretch of road less than twelve miles long. Yet, in six miles, for traffic leaving Frinton and Walton, there are already two petrol stations. If the Minister goes against planning considerations, he must surely follow the instructions in his own circular. Did he do this on the question of need, after so summarily dismissing planning considerations?

The inspector's views on this question of need were not mentioned in the Minister's summary of his inspector's views contained in his letter of 7th October to the Esso Company, saying why he had allowed the appeal. Why was this point overlooked? Why did the Minister not mention this question of need in reply to my Written Question in the House last week? This important consideration, which preceded the inspector's final recommendation, was not even mentioned by the Minister. Why did the Minister try to stifle this important factor? This is really the crux of the case.

The inspector said quite clearly and distinctly in his report that, had evidence been produced to show that there was need for the station, it might have countered the argument against the proposal. But the inspector said: No such need was shown", and there was no evidence of congestion at the existing stations. Quite rightly, the inspector had paid attention to the advice of the Minister in his own circular, and, where need had not been established, he had made planning considerations decisive. How the Minister could possibly overrule his own inspector, even on planning considerations alone, is beyond my comprehension.

The Minister has said that he did not visit the site, nor, indeed, had any people from his Ministry visited the site after the inspector had reported. But did he obtain any other local advice? Surely, where planning considerations are concerned, the council's views are extremely important. Why has the Minister not paid more attention to the local council? Surely, it is not true that the Minister follows the principle that the man in Whitehall knows best.

I claim that the inspector was quite right in the recommendation he gave, supporting the local council, even on planning considerations alone and not taking into account the question of need. He realised, quite correctly, that the proposal for a new petrol station conflicted very materially with the council's planning policy, which, indeed, had the support of the area planning officer.

Should the present appeal be allowed", said the inspector when he wrote his report, it would establish a precedent for allowing other developments in this gap, as the grounds for refusing residential development were the same, for houses would also close the gap", and add to the traffic problem here. He went on: I think that the maintenance of the gap between Frinton and Kirby Cross is an important planning consideration and is most desirable. I cannot, unfortunately, point out in the time available to me—

Mr. Ede (South Shields)


Mr. Ridsdale

If I had known what would happen and had been able to study and prepare it further, I could have brought out a few more of the points which seem to be most significant, but I will concentrate on those which are particularly vital. There are many strange ways in which the inspector's report seems to have been misinterpreted by the Minister. For instance, the Minister says that the effect of traffic flow is likely to be small, yet the inspector, in his report, says: Traffic congestion arises from the junction at the level crossing". He goes on to say: Evidence shows that the position is bad today…. Indications are that with more frequent train services and the steady increase in traffic, the position would grow worse. I ought to know, because I often get stuck at this very point myself. In a few years' time, the traffic will become worse, not better. There will be a need to make a new entrance to Frinton at the very point where the Minister proposes to allow the petrol station. He will then be contravening the siting instruction he gave in Circular No. 25/58, that a petrol station should not be too close to a side road connection, junction or roundabout. Indeed, this road would run right through the proposed new petrol station. I was surprised that this point was not brought out at the inquiry.

I must say that I am in no way satisfied with the Minister's decision. There certainly seems to be no reason for the Minister to go against all local feeling as well as the report of his own inspector. I have received countless letters on the subject, and not one of them has been on the side of the Minister. I should have thought it reasonable to expect that if the Minister were to go against all local advice, at least he would consult with me, especially in view of my past representations and some of the past conversations that we have had on the matter, and that, in any case, greater consideration would have been given to the arguments. No wise action like this seems to have been taken.

I am most disturbed that paragraph 59 of the inspector's report seems to have been deliberately ignored by the Minister. Paragraph 59 reads: Had evidence been produced to show there was great need for this station it might have countered the arguments against the proposal. No such need was shown, and there was no evidence of congestion at the existing station. Then followed the inspector's recommendation. Yet the Minister did not mention this in his letter to the Esso Petroleum Company. I am in no way surprised that my constituents are asking, first, whether it will be the policy of the Minister to allow all applications for new petrol stations regardless of what local authorities and Her Majesty's inspectors say, and. secondly, whether the application in my constituency is favoured for some reason known to the Minister but not to the general public. These are serious questions which my constituents are asking and for which they justifiably seek a reply.

Finally, it is not a principle of mine to wish to interfere with the ordinary laws of supply and demand, save where monopolistic tendencies arise. I believe in good, healthy competition. However, I have been very gravely disturbed by the two recent cases in my division which I have brought to the notice of the Minister. I trust that in what seems to be a petrol war developing between the small garages and the larger companies, the Minister will ensure that due regard is paid to the question of need and will ensure that wherever possible a fair "do" is given to the small garage proprietor.

I submit that the Minister in making his decision paid no attention to the question of need. He carefully did not mention the inspector's view in his letter of 7th October, when he gave his reasons for allowing the appeal, or, indeed, in reply to my Question in the House last week. Indeed, the omission of this point, bearing in mind what the inspector said in his report and the advice of the Minister in his circular, causes this case, to say the least, to have a sinister ring.

It is because I am not satisfied that justice has been done in this case that I ask the Minister to consider it again and to revoke his decision. If he is not able to give a satisfactory reply I want to impress upon him the very strong feelings that have been aroused. Unless my hon. Friend is able to give a satisfactory reply this evening, I am sure that a demand will be made for an inquiry into how the strange decision of the Minister came about. I can find no sound arguments whatsoever to support the Minister's decision to overrule his own inspector and the local council in this manner.

I hope that my hon. Friend will not stand on his prestige, but will show that his mind is flexible and will honestly admit that a mistake has been made, and will show that he is able to put it right. If not, he will be flouting all local views and, in practice, saying very dictatorially that the man in Whitehall knows best without having made any further inquiries when he made his final decision. I appeal to him to revoke his decision.

6.5 p.m.

Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West)

Normally, I would be among the first in the House to welcome the fact that the Minister had shown such independence of mind and had stood by a decision which he believed to be right, even against the advice of his own inspector, whom, I understand, he sent to the site to make a report for him. Since this is such a welcome sign, it would be very interesting if my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary could give us some of the reasons lying behind it, and tell the House why, having gone to the trouble of asking for recommendations and reports, his own decision apparently goes right against them.

I do not hold a brief in this matter, but I listened with interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) said. The House will agree that, from the information we have had from my hon. Friend, he has a very strong case. These matters undoubtedly cause a great deal of concern in local areas if the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister responsible for making a decision of this kind do not sufficiently go into the reasons lying behind the ruling. I hope that my hon. Friend will give further emphasis to his own independence of spirit by revoking the decision or, at any rate, causing a serious inquiry to be made into it.

My hon. Friend referred to a petrol war between some of the bigger companies and the smaller petrol stations. Again, I emphasise that I have no brief for the big petrol companies, but I have had some dealings with them and I know that this is a matter which has caused a good deal of concern up and down the country. A man may be established in a small business, perhaps a sort of "free house", selling a number of different brands of petrol, and then along come other mammoth organisations of the main petrol distribution companies who seek to take him over. I know that the big companies are most concerned in case it should be thought that they are trying to do the little man down, as my hon. Friend said. If there is any possibility of that being said in this instance, I am sure that the petroleum company concerned would be only too anxious to prevent it being said. If a petrol station is already serving an area sufficiently well, is there any need for another?

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not stand firm on his decision, but, having already gone against the advice of his inspector, will now go against his own earlier opinion and revoke the decision which he has made.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)

I wish to detain the House for only a couple of minutes. As a neighbour of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), I want to add emphasis to what he said.

There is tremendous local disquiet at the extraordinary way—that is the only word for it—that the Minister has acted in this case. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. J. Eden) that independence of mind on the part of a Minister is something which should be welcomed, but when it is independence which goes against all apparent facts and common sense it is extremely difficult to understand and it puts myself, as an Essex Member, in an awkward position in trying to defend some of the things that the Minister does. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary can give us some good reasons for the decision, which has been taken without any justification on the facts, as was explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich.

The disturbance which there has been in the public mind and in the local Press is such that this matter must be reconsidered, with all aspects taken into account. If it is necessary for the Minister to change his decision, that may be unpalatable, but fortunately, in the head of that Department, we have an extremely courageous Minister, and I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary, having heard the views put forward by my hon. Friend, will convey those views to the Minister, and that the Minister, being the courageous man that he is, will be prepared to alter his decision.

6.11 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. R. Bevins)

I should like, first, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) on his tenacity in pursuing this subject. He was, if I may use the expression, rather edged out quite recently, but he has continued to ventilate this grievance in one way and another.

When I say "grievance", I well understand that he regards it as a wrong decision and that it is also so regarded as an unhappy decision by many people in his constituency. My hon. Friend referred to the doctrine, "The man in Whitehall always knows best". Let me say at once that in my view the man in Whitehall does not always know best, but sometimes he knows a little more than is commonly attributed to him.

My hon. Friend raised a number of considerations which affect this planping appeal. The first was that the decision in this case is very unpopular locally and that everybody thinks that it is wrong. I am very sorry, as is my right hon. Friend, that that should be the case, but I assure him that the decision here was taken after all the relevant facts had been taken into account, including, of course, the petition which was signed by a considerable number of people against the petrol station and was submitted at the public inquiry.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House will recognise that in these planning appeals the case for and against the application is often very finely balanced. That is bound to be so, in the nature of the case, because the appeal and the public inquiry take place only after a decision has been taken against the applicant by the local planning authority. Clearly, the appellant who goes to the trouble of making an appeal thinks that he has a reasonably good case. On the other side, the local planning authority, because it has turned down the application, also thinks that it has a good case. In the last resort it is for my right hon. Friend to decide whether the development should be allowed or not.

We all recognise that all planning, especially planning restriction—which planning often amounts to—tends to act as a brake upon enterprise of one kind and another, and whatever my hon. Friend may think about the decision in this case I feel that we must most studiously avoid the assumption that it is my right. hon. Friend's mission to frustrate development whenever people wish to develop, whether it be petrol stations, housing, industry, or anything else. That, I think, would be very wrong.

We have also to bear in mind that all decisions on planning appeals, whether they are intrinsically right or wrong, are bound to be thought to be wrong by some people. They are matters upon which it is impossible to please everybody. It is perfectly true that in this case—and I agree that this is a rather unusual feature—the recommendation of the inspector who took the public inquiry was not upheld by my right hon. Friend.

I ought to make it clear that my right hon. Friend is not bound to accept the views or the recommendations of his inspectors. The responsibility for decisions in these matters is that of the Minister and not that of the inspector. As I said once before in the House, that is a very heavy responsibility, because appeals are running at the rate of about 8,000 a year, and each of those has to be considered as an individual appeal on its merits.

I should like to say a word or two on the details of this case, because it is only fair that I should do so. The position which faced my right hon. Friend was that the inspector who took the inquiry formed the view that the site itself was intrinsically a good site for a petrol filling station, from the point of view of sight lines and visibility. He did not think that the petrol station would be likely seriously to affect the flow of traffic on the road, nor did he think that the lack of main drainage was an obstacle, because the premises could be adequately drained to a cesspool. He agreed with the council about the importance of preserving the undeveloped gap between Frinton and Kirby Cross. For those reasons he recommended that the appeal should be turned down.

The only point of difference between the inspector and my right hon. Friend was whether a petrol filling station on this site would be an undue encroachment on what is a relatively narrow belt of undeveloped land between Frinton and Kirby Cross.

Mr. Ridsdale

My hon. Friend says that the only difference between the inspector and the Minister was on a planning question, but surely the difference was over the question of need, too. Will my hon. Friend refer to this when he replies to the questions which I asked?

Mr. Bevins

Most certainly. I had intended to do so.

I was saying that the major point of difference between the inspector and my right hon. Friend was whether a filling station on this site would be an undue encroachment on the relatively narrow belt of undeveloped land between Frinton and Kirby Cross. On this point, my right hon. Friend shared the view of the local planning authority, which was also the view of the inspector, about the importance of keeping this gap open to prevent these communities from coalescing one with the other. On the other hand, he had to bear in mind the fact that this appeal site was situated at the extreme end of this gap and that it formed a wedge between the road and the railway not far from Frinton Station, right on the edge of the town. Viewed from one point of view, therefore, this site was not open country; it was right at one edge of this gap between two local communities.

It was eventually decided that the objection on this score which had been taken both by the local planning authority and by the inspector, and which is the only planning objection which emerged from the inquiry, was not sufficiently strong to justify the refusal of permission to develop. I entirely agree that that was a matter of judgment. My hon. Friend would presumably have taken the other view had he been in my right hon. Friend's place, but it so happens that my right hon. Friend took that view because he did not regard the erection of a filling station on this site as being opposed to the interests of amenity.

I want to say a word on the question of need, which has been raised by my hon. Friend. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House understand quite well what are the purposes of town and country planning. I think that' they will agree that the question of specific need—that is, industrial need, or the need for a petrol station, or the need for a light industry, or a heavy industry in a certain situation—is not, broadly speaking, a planning consideration at all; that is, if the matter is viewed solely from the point of view of need.

On the other hand, there can be cases which, from a purely planning point of view, are marginal planning cases; viewed solely from the point of view of amenity the case may be so evenly balanced that the Minister may feel that, because there is a glut of petrol stations in an area, this is a marginal consideration which might weigh against allowing a particular piece of development. That is the extent to which need enters into this matter. It is largely a marginal consideration and it was frankly because on grounds of amenity and planning my right hon. Friend thought that this appeal ought to be upheld that he took this particular course.

I want to add that my right hon. Friend takes a very close interest indeed in all these planning matters, including the masses of appeals which come into the Ministry, in spite of the fact that he has one or two other preoccupations on his mind. In the exercise of his statutory function, the Minister and his officials are indivisible and that cannot be otherwise.

Mr. Ede

What does the hon. Gentleman mean by his statement that the Minister and his officials are indivisible, because there appears to have been a distinct division between them?

Mr. Bevins

I presume that the right hon. Gentleman means in the sense of the inspector and my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Ede


Mr. Bevins

That is true. The right hon. Gentleman would not, in that context, expect my right hon. Friend to accept in every case the recommendation of an inspector who conducts an inquiry. That would be quite wrong.

Mr. Ede

I think that the Minister ought to be able to give some good, solid reasons why he goes against the report of the inspector.

Mr. Bevins

That is what I have been seeking to do. I have been trying to show that in my right hon. Friend's view the inspector did not attach the right weight to the amenity aspect of this appeal. While the inspector thought that it would be wrong to allow a petrol station at the edge of this gap, my right hon. Friend took the other view.

It sometimes happens that a Minister of Housing and Local Government, or, in the past, a Minister of Town and Country Planning, in certain circumstances has regard to wider considerations of planning than perhaps the inspector who took the inquiry at the time. Broadly speaking, that is sometimes why there are differences of opinion.

I will pass on quite shortly, to the final question of the so-called war between the petrol companies. I do not know anything about that. What I do know is that any allegation that my right hon. Friend or his Ministry is too partial or too tender towards the big petrol companies or, for that matter, towards applications for petrol filling stations is not supported by the facts. We get a very considerable number of petrol station appeals and we dismiss far more of those appeals than we allow. In 1957, the last year for which I have figures, 494 appeals were dismissed, only 78 were allowed.

I would add that in all cases the identity of the appellant does not affect the issue. It does not matter to my right hon. Friend or his advisers whether the appellant happens to be one of the big petrol companies or one of the little men. Very often we have no means of knowing whether the appellant in a planning appeal has one of the big oil companies behind him or not. In any case, we are not interested to know, because we try to judge these cases according to planning considerations, as of course, is our duty.

My hon. Friend finally argued the question whether my right hon. Friend was prepared, having given a decision in this case, to revoke that decision. I think he knows that my right hon. Friend has personally looked at this case and has decided that, having given a decision, it would be wrong to revoke it. I think that I should say, in fairness to the appellant in this case—I do not know who he is; I have forgotten the name and I am not interested—that in these cases, once a decision has been given, it would very often be wrong and unfair to revoke that decision from the point of view of the person whose appeal has been allowed, as it has been allowed in this case.

In spite, therefore, of the plausible argument deployed by my hon. Friend and his hon. Friends on this side of the House, I cannot hold out any hope of revocation. I hope, however— I say this to my hon. Friend in all sincerity—that what he has said will be helpful in the future. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend, who has followed this case personally, will study all that he has said and that if he thinks it necessary to supplement what I have said this afternoon he will do so.

6.27 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The last two or three sentences of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary are among the most astounding I have heard in this House. He enters the plea "Not guilty" and then adds, "I will not do it again."

Mr. Bevins

No. I did not say anything of the sort, nor did I imply anything of the sort, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.

Mr. Ede

Let me put it like this. The hon. Gentleman says: "I will be very careful before I do it again."

I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) and to those of his two supporters. I thought that the hon. Member for Harwich gave an indication that there was very strong local feeling on the matter. I gather that had been voiced at the inquiry, but what the hon. Gentleman did not deal with in his reply, which was as usual very lucid—and he put up the best case that could be put up —was to what extent the feelings of local private individuals influence the Minister in cases of this kind.

I did not follow the argument that because there is a road and a railway running alongside the road it does not matter very much what goes in between the two. I would have thought that if a railway was in any way a detriment to the amenities, it would not follow that the amenities would be improved by a modern petrol station between the road and the railway. I know from my own experience, going back in these matters to the time when the first Minister of Town and Country Planning had to deal with them, that I even went so far on one occasion as to have an interview with him, which was far more satisfactory in its results than the intervention of the hon. Member for Harwich appears to have been in this case.

It is a very disappointing thing to local residents, who appreciate even a small gap between two built-up areas, to find that one of these stations has made its appearance and that what happened before town and country planning enabled people to protect their amenities has been worsened by what goes on now. I have given evidence at more than one of the inquiries held by the Minister's inspectors in areas in which I am interested. It is a very great disappointment to people who come forward with no other than the public interest to serve, who are not themselves involved in the petrol war but are merely anxious to keep in the neighbourhood in which they live some open tracts of roadway—on which these stations in seaside resorts are a very great nuisance on bank holidays and Sundays —to see them cluttered with traffic. Judging by what the hon. Member for Harwich said, this is a place where that kind of thing needs careful attention, and it should have had some weight with the Minister.

The Parliamentary Secretary is now becoming quite skilled at answering the easy questions and leaving the hard ones unanswered, in the hope that the general atmosphere of good will which he exudes on such occasions as this will make people forget that there were some other arguments which he found it convenient to ignore. The only thing with which I agreed in what the Parliamentary Secretary said is that once a decision by the Minister has been given it is well nigh impossible to expect that it can be revoked. Obviously, the appellant gets the decision he wants, and he then proceeds with plans and with carrying those plans into effect. He is bound to have incurred some expense in carrying out what is now his right, and, possibly, in being represented at the inquiry and in having his case presented to the inspector.

I hope that the Minister will realise the extent to which a decision of his may be not so much against the local council as against the weight of local public opinion, which is merely anxious to preserve the amenities of the district in which the people coming forward reside. The disappointment in such cases is very deep, very keenly felt, and is very discouraging to people who, out of sheer interest in the public weal, incur the difficulties and sometimes the odium of appearing at an inquiry and giving their evidence to the inspector. I could have hoped that on this occasion the Minister would have reached a different decision from the one he did, but I shall take heart, not from the repentance of the Parliamentary Secretary at this decision, but from his assurance that the feeling expressed here will weigh with the Minister in some other case on which he has not yet heard the evidence.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. Charles Grey (Durham)

I wish to raise another matter. I am sorry that I have not had time to let the Minister know the matter I wish to raise.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

On a point of order. If my hon. Friend wishes to raise another matter, and as I wish to speak on this matter which is now before the House, perhaps, Mr. Speaker, it would be for the convenience of the House if you would allow me to speak first.

Mr. Speaker

Of course, any hon. Member who catches my eye on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House is entitled to be heard if he raises a proper subject—one which does not involve legislation, and so on; but there is a convention which past Speakers have mentioned and whose breach they have deprecated, namely, that an hon. Member ought not to raise a subject without notice and without having a Minister or someone else here to reply.

The convention proceeds from the idea that the House should be placed in possession of both sides of any grievance. There are obviously disadvantages in raising a new subject without securing the attendance of a Minister. That is a convention. I can only deprecate it if it is not observed on this occasion. I have no power under Standing Orders to prevent from speaking an hon. Member who has caught my eye.

Mr. Short

Further to my point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not wish to prevent my hon. Friend from speaking. The only point I was putting to you was that it would perhaps be for the convenience of the Minister who is present, and of the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), who raised the question of a petrol station, and who would wish to hear all the debate on it, if I spoke before my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey), who obviously wishes to raise some other matter. That was the only point I was putting to you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I have not heard the speech of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey). I merely used that caveat in the case of a Member raising a matter without securing the attendance of a Minister to reply to him. I can only say that I deprecate its being done.

Mr. Grey

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it help the House if I were to relinquish my right now in favour of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short)? What would be the position if I did that? There is the difficulty that I cannot be called twice in one debate in the House, and there is not a Minister here to answer the points I wish to raise.

Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)

Is it possible, Mr. Speaker, for an hon. Member, as is the case with my hon. Friend, to sit down and give way to another hon. Member and to let him make a speech and then to take the Floor again? Is that in order? I imagine that it is.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Is it the case, Sir, that an hon. Member who is called to speak, and who speaks, though without making a speech, has the right to speak again later?

Mr. Speaker

I said that an hon. Memer is quite in order in speaking on the Adjournment once he has caught my eye. That is the legal position. I merely mentioned the convention, which has been observed, that an hon. Member ought not to raise topics without giving notice to the Minister concerned and securing his attendance, so that the House can be placed in possession of both sides of the story. However, I have called the hon. Member for Durham, who is entitled to speak. Mr. Grey.