HC Deb 23 June 1960 vol 625 cc648-50
3. Mrs. Castle

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has had from the House authorities about the provision of a copying machine for the free use of hon. Members.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the provision of special paper for the copying machine in the Fees Office which is already available for the use of Members. Hon. Members are already allowed to draw free supplies of stationery from the Serjeant at Arms stores, up to a limit of £8 per annum. My right hon. Friend is proposing to raise this limit to £10 per annum, as from the 1st October next, so that Members may if they so desire also draw free of charge a reasonable quantity of the paper required for this machine. A notice about this will be circulated in the Whip.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Member aware that his assumption is entirely wrong? I am referring not to free paper but to the provision of a copying machine, a matter which was raised with his right hon. Friend on 24th May by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), who pointed out that at present hon. Members are involved in great cost by having to pay 6d. a copy for the use of the present copying machine in the Fees Office. Is he aware that my hon. Friend said that we wanted additional machines made available free of charge and that the right hon. Gentleman said that the matter would be considered?

Sir E. Boyle

If the hon. Lady makes further representations on the matter, I will, of course, receive them. I must say that I have tried to answer what I thought was in the minds of hon. Members, and I hope that the announcement which I have made today will be helpful, at any rate to some hon. Members.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

If the Government really intend to take up this stingy and pettifogging attitude, will the hon. Gentleman use his influence so that I am allowed to lend a copying machine to the House for the free use of hon. Members, together with paper, and to install it so that he can watch how it works and how it is used and then consider taking the thing over at the beginning of next Session?

Sir E. Boyle

I think that we want to keep a sense of proportion about this matter. A copying machine is already available for the use of hon. Members and we are increasing the amount of free stationery which hon. Members can use on the copying machine, so the hon. Member will agree that there has been some progress.

Mrs. Castle

Does the hon. Member's answer mean that in future no charge will be made to hon. Members for the use of the copying machine in the Fees Office for which a charge is made at present?

Mr. Noel-Baker rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.

4. Mrs. Castle

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the cost of installing a central dictation system in the House for the use of hon. Members.

Sir E. Boyle

The cost of a central system of 20 machines such as the hon. Member suggested on an earlier occasion would be about £2,000 for installation and £20,000 per annum for operation.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the usual practice of business firms is to enter into a hire contract with the supplier and that the cost of such a hire contract, I am informed, would work out at about £6,000 a year, including maintenance. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is worth having at any rate a trial run with the installation of a few sets of this system to see whether it might solve the problem of hon. Member's heavy secretarial costs?

Sir E. Boyle

I think that this question raises fairly large issues about the financial privileges of hon. Members. The Select Committee of 1954 did not recommend free secretarial services, and although I would like to consider the suggestion, it raises much wider issues going beyond what one can deal with in answer to supplementary questions.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that modern devices which facilitate the recording and dissemination of ideas very often result in less thought being given to their formulation?

Sir E. Boyle

That is what might be called a pemmican utterance.