HC Deb 11 June 1959 vol 606 cc1179-81
45. Dr. D. Johnson

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the information concerning cases of individual grievance submitted to him by the hon. Member for Carlisle, he will appoint a Parliamentary Commissioner after the Scandinavian model with powers to investigate and report publicly on all cases in which an individual can claim to have suffered serious damage to his reputation, his livelihood, or his welfare consequent on administrative or executive action by public authority.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

While I have doubts as to whether an arrangement of this kind would be altogether appropriate to our constitutional practice, I will certainly see that the memorandum which my hon. Friend sent me is carefully studied.

Dr. Johnson

Is the Prime Minister aware that at times our Government Departments in their dealings with these cases appear to be subscribing to the philosophy of Dr. Pangloss that the more private misfortunes there are the greater is the general good? Would he not consider the suggestion very seriously indeed with a view to introducing a more coherent philosophy of administration?

The Prime Minister

I repeat that I will study as carefully as I can, and cause to be studied, the suggestions which my hon. Friend has put forward in his memorandum.

Mr. Gaitskell

This is an interesting proposal and I certainly have no objection to it being studied, but does it not involve considerable constitutional changes? I suggest to the Prime Minister that before the Government reach any conclusion, this is the kind of thing which should be studied, possibly by an all-party committee?

The Prime Minister

That is why I ventured to say in my reply that I had doubts whether any arrangement of this kind was altogether appropriate to our own constitutional practice.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

If my right hon. Friend feels that this is the wrong remedy, may I ask whether he is not aware that the Report of the Franks Committee called attention to this gap in our arrangements for protecting the liberty of the subject but was unable itself to recommend any way of filling that gap owing to the strictness with which its terms of reference had been drawn? In those circumstances, if this is not the right remedy, has my right hon. Friend considered what is the right remedy for filling this gap?

The Prime Minister

I will look into that point. I think that we ought not to forget the enormous advance of recent years in sweeping away a great deal of these systems which lead to too much administrative control. Nor should we forget the carrying out of the main recommendation of the Franks Committee.

Mr. Paget

Is it not the traditional function of the Member of Parliament to bring forward the grievances of the individual against the Crown and to secure a remedy before supply is granted?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. It is a function which I have not observed that they are at all reluctant to exercise, either by Question or by letter.