§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I beg to move, That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Monday next.
This Motion is in continuance of the statement which I made on Tuesday, 26th April, when we returned after Easter, that the Government intended to propose that we should not sit tomorrow, Friday, 6th May. My reason then was the same as it is now—that we feel that it is not only appropriate but also proper that the House should not sit on the occasion of the Royal wedding.
At that time I gave an undertaking that we should make good the time which private Members would lose for the consideration of their Motions. The first Motion for tomorrow was on the wider ownership of industrial shares; the second was on the Albermarle Report on the Youth Service; and the third was on teaching about the Commonwealth. I am now able to say that we propose to allocate the first Friday after the Whitsun Recess to this private business and, therefore, to give to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), and the other hon. Members concerned exactly the same rights, privileges and time as they would have had if we had met tomorrow. The exact date will be given when we announce the date of the Whitsun Recess.
I have seen it stated that a variety of subjects might be raised. Without entrenching upon your territory, Mr. Speaker, and the rules of order, I would point out that not one hon. Member will lose anything by this arrangement, because we are giving the same private Members' time for private Members' business at a suitable date. If hon. Members wish legitimately to raise other issues, I would point out that they could not have been raised tomorrow, which was to have been a private Members' day. If the Motion is to be debated, therefore, I hope that there will be a little realisation of that fact—that by this action we are removing not one minute from the time of hon. Members to discuss questions which interest them and which may be of supreme importance or from the time of hon. Members for Private Members' Motions.
1271 in the circumstances, I hope that the House will agree that the Motion should be passed not only with expedition, but also with the expression of our very best wishes to Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret, and her future husband on the occasion of their wedding.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
It is only right that I should say that we were consulted before this decision was taken. The House was confronted with a somewhat difficult problem. I do not think that it would have been very easy to have continued with our normal arrangements, certainly at the normal times, although I shall have a word to say a little later about access to the House. There was obviously the difficulty of very large crowds in the streets and the possibility of a very thinly attended debate.
We were more concerned in our discussions with the right hon. Gentleman to ensure that private Members did not lose the time allotted to them, and I am grateful to him for having given up Government time so that the three subjects, or such of them as are reached, will be discussed immediately after Whitsun.
I should, however, like to take the opportunity of asking the right hon. Gentleman what arrangements are being made to enable those hon. Gentlemen who are anxious to come to the House to get here. The Sessional Order lays down that access should be provided whether the House is sitting or not. I had considerable difficulty in getting back here after a function which I had to attend and at which I had to speak during lunch, and I hope that some special arrangements will be made, otherwise I do not think that hon. Members will get through.
Finally, may I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman has made about Princess Margaret's wedding. We wish her every possible happiness.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Butler
I think that steps have been taken to inform hon. Members on both sides of the House that Members coming to the House tomorrow—Friday, 6th May—may apply to the Speaker's office for windscreen labels which will 1272 ensure their access by car, in so far as we can ensure it, up to 10.45 a.m. Full details of the routes recommended are given on the label. I have read again the Sessional Standing Order about access to the House. I have communicated with the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, and I understand that the police officers on duty on Friday will be instructed to give hon. Members all possible assistance. If there is any doubt, hon. Members should make their identity quite clear to the police officer concerned. Hon. Members on foot whose identity is not questioned will be permitted to pass at any point up to the latest possible moment before the procession passes.
Furthermore, I am asked to advise hon. Members that the easiest access on foot will be through the tunnel leading to the underground station. If hon. Members would deign to use the underground services, I think that they might find that access to the House the easiest, and it will be open all the time. In so far as I have been able to assist hon. Members to come to the House, although the House is not sitting, I have done my best to help.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
On a point of order. There is one matter in connection with the Motion which is for you, Mr. Speaker, I suggest, as much as for the Government.
You will observe that on the Order Paper the Government have a Motion to suspend our sitting today, if they so desire, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1. It is the normal practice of the printers of HANSARD, when business on Thursday continues beyond 10.30 p.m., to print the report of the proceedings in Friday's HANSARD. If we do not sit tomorrow there will not be a Friday's HANSARD.
It seems to me, therefore, that the Government and perhaps you, Sir, could take into account the loyal and excellent service given to us by the HANSARD staff, for it would be most regrettable if, for the matter of a debate lasting 20 minutes or half an hour, a special edition of HANSARD had to be published.
I am sure that the House would like to know what directions you propose to give, or whether you can use your influence to persuade the Government 1273 to curtail the business tonight and to conclude at 10.30 p.m. so that the HANSARD published tomorrow in the normal way will cover all our proceedings and thus avoid this dilemma.
§ Mr. Speaker
My personal and limited experience suggests that the best way of encourgaging Governments into that frame of mind is to make progress with the antecedent business. I confess that I had not given thought to the possibility of a special edition being required of the daily HANSARD. I do not feel able to reply to the hon. Member on that point without making some inquires as to the possibility of anything of the kind being done. I am too ignorant of what could be involved to the staff in requiring something of the kind. When I escape from my present situation I may be able to make some inquiries.
§ Mr. Butler
As Leader of the House, I had taken the liberty to acquaint myself of this problem. I understand that if we do not sit too late the HANSARD reporters will be ready to finish the edition tonight. That is on the understanding that we do not sit too late. I think that it would mean that we could sit as late as 11 p.m. If we sat later than that I do not think they would be able to do it. The Government will co-operate with the House, have due consideration for the Editor and reporters of HANSARD and try not to sit too late tonight.
We have to take into account that there is a half-hour Adjournment after we end Government business. That would make 11.30 p.m. absolutely the latest time. Bearing that in mind, the Government will co-operate to this extent. If your researches reveal the same situation, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that we might all co-operate together.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has effectively stopped any kind of debate on Scottish unemployment—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member could raise with me a point of order, if it were a point of order, but otherwise the situation is that I had just called the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and was in the act of 1274 saying to him that I had called him for the purpose of moving his Amendment, should he so desire.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I beg to move, to leave out "Monday next" and to add:tomorrow at half past Ten o'clock.At the outset, I wish to associate myself with what the Home Secretary has said. I think it is unquestionable that we all wish the Princess Margaret and her future husband every prosperity and every happiness in their married life, but that is not the question that we are called upon to discuss. Although we associate ourselves with these good wishes, it does not follow that we associate ourselves also with the slush, mush and gush which is deluging the sensational Press, which is exploiting this Royal marriage purely for the purpose of making fortunes for the newspaper owners.
We believe that there should be a priority and a relativity in these matters. For example, we know that a certain section of people attach a great deal of importance to the wedding, but we are Members of the House of Commons and our duty is to think of the House of Commons first. It is in this matter that I find the arguments of the Leader of the House very unconvincing indeed. When this matter arose originally, we were told that difficulty would arise in obtaining access to the House, and, in this Amendment, I have included the words "half-past Ten o'clock" to make it quite clear that this would give an opportunity for Members to come to the House, if they wished, tomorrow.
The Home Secretary has answered his other arguments in advance. If Members wish to come to the House at half-past ten, that is at least an hour before the procession leaves Buckingham Palace, and it is surely not beyond the wit and ingenuity of Members of the House of Commons to find their way from the Underground station through the subway in the way in which the Home Secretary indicated. There is no difficulty at all in getting access to the House, if hon. Members wish to do so, so that today the Home Secretary has answered the Home Secretary who made the statement about ten days ago.
1275 I wonder what kind of liaison there is between the Home Secretary and Buckingham Palace about the dates and days of these events. I am quite sure that if it were suggested from Buckingham Palace that the wedding should take place on Budget day there would be a protest from the Government. There would be a protest from the Home Secretary, who would say, "We really cannot have a Royal wedding interfering with Budget day, because that is the day when we raise the money to pay for it all." If that were not convincing—
§ Mr. Hughes
It might be so. If that argument failed, of course, the Home Secretary, with his customary ingenuity, would say "Oh, yes, it would be very inconvenient to have it on Budget day, because that is a day on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to make one of his pleas for economy and caution in public expenditure."
So we must ask how these dates are fixed, and whether at any point, and how far, the Home Secretary was consulted before saying "Well, perhaps it had better be on a Friday and on a private Members' day, and not in Government time." All this could have been avoided if the public relations between the Home Office and Buckingham Palace had been a little better, and if they had been able to arrange a day like today, when we are discussing the Betting and Gaming Bill, or something of that kind. These ideas do not seem to have occurred to the Home Secretary, so it has been fixed on a Friday, which is private Members' time.
Yet it was the same Home Secretary who was so enthusiastic about private Members' time in the speech that he made at the opening of the Session. Then we had very eloquent speeches from both sides of the House stressing the importance of private Members' time. We had a statement—which was received with great appreciation by the House— that there would be arid deserts in front of us, but that we would be refreshed by the oases of private Members' time. What does the Home Secretary do? He gives away the oasis.
1276 We hear a lot about the idea that the rights of private Members have to be expressed by a private Member. I know that certain arrangements were made through the usual channels, but what have the usual channels to do with the organisation of private Members' days and private Members' time? Surely, the whole idea of Private Members' Motions and private Members' time was that this was a matter in which the official channels were not concerned. I suggest to the Home Secretary that instead of approaching the Leader of the Opposition and our Front Bench, he should have contacted those hon. Members who are lucky enough to have secured time for tomorrow.
To come to the Members whose time is to be postponed, there are some interesting Motions on the Order Paper of the House for tomorrow. For example, the first Motion stands in the name of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), and calls for a wider ownership of industrial shares. The Motion reads:To call attention to the desirability of the wider ownership of industrial shares, and to move a Resolution.I am sure that that Motion arouses great interest in all parts of the House.
The hon. Member for Twickenham is obviously concerned about the ownership of industrial shares, and wants to see an extension of that ownership. I believe he has his eye on Courtaulds, or perhaps Guinness, and I was hoping that we were to hear an interesting speech in which the hon. Member would develop his argument for the extension of the ownership of industrial shares, and I was wondering how far he was going to go towards Communism. Apparently the Royal wedding is to take priority over the discussion of the future of a property-owning democracy.
Further, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) has a Motion on the Order Paper which reads:To call attention to the Albemarle Report on the Youth Service in England and Wales, and to move a Resolution.That is an issue in which the House is extremely interested. We should be doing our duty to our constituents and to the country if we spent our time tomorrow discussing the future of the Youth Service and its educational implications.
1277 If the hon. Members for Twickenham and Leicester, North-West thought that their presence was desired across the road, the next Motion on the Order Paper is headed, "Teaching About The Commonwealth". It is an impressive Motion. It reads:To call attention to the desirability of increasing teaching about the Commonwealth and Colonies; and to move. That this House, realising that the beneficial influence of this nation in world affairs depends on a united Commonwealth, urges Her Majesty's Government to stimulate by every possible means, including teaching in schools and colleges, a widespread knowledge in the United Kingdom of the dependent and independent countries of the Commonwealth and of its political, economic and cultural development.It would be fitting and proper, when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, their staffs and delegates are in London, that this Motion should have priority over what we are doing.
Finally, on the Order Paper for tomorrow the Traffic Control (Temporary Provisions) Bill is listed for Second Reading. This is a curious Bill to bring forward on the Order Paper of the House of Commons at a time when the Government are associating themselves with the biggest traffic block which is liable to take place in London for a very long time.
The Motions on the Order Paper should have priority over anything which happens tomorrow on the other side of the street. If hon. Members concerned have decided that they would prefer to postpone their Motions, there are a very large number of Motions on the Order Paper which could be discussed. Scotland would have had no hesitation in coming forward and filling the vacuum.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Clearly, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is getting near to danger limit. Scotland might have the best of intentions, but it would need to have something to give notice about on the Order Paper if it was to get outside the Motions already there.
§ Mr. Hughes
There are two lines of approach to that, Mr. Speaker. First, there is already a Motion on the Order Paper affecting Scotland, which was mentioned by hon. Members last Friday. Indeed, even if that failed, there would then be a Motion to adjourn. On the 1278 Motion for the Adjournment we could raise the whole question of Scotland.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that the hon. Member is quite right. I had thought about it before I ventured to interrupt him. The Motions for discussion tomorrow, if we sit tomorrow, have been appointed by the operation of the Ballot which we held for the purpose. As regards the Adjournment debate, it has long been the practice, under arrangements which we have, for one hon. Member normally to have the subject matter of the Adjournment debate and for my predecessors and myself as far as possible to deprecate the sudden interjection of some other subject.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
On a point of order. If the debate were held as usual tomorrow, and it collapsed because of an insufficient number of Members being interested in those subjects, if there were hon. Members here from Scotland who were interested in Scottish questions would it not be permissible for them to raise the question of Scottish unemployment and carry on that debate until 4 o'clock?
§ Mr. Speaker
They could raise it on the Adjournment, subject to the interests of the hon. Member who has at present the right to that Adjournment under our existing arrangements. If he, in turn, collapsed altogether, the Chair would do its utmost to discourage the introduction of a new subject, unless the Minister had had adequate notice.
§ Mr. Lawson
Further to that point of order. I know that the Chair seeks to discourage the continuation of a debate on another subject, but, according to the rules, would it not be in order for hon. Members who were here to carry on with a debate? Therefore, the matter hinges upon whether or not tomorrow a sufficiently large number of hon. Members turn up. If Scottish Members were prepared to turn up and others did not, would they not be in order in raising their subject?
§ Mr. Speaker
There are several points involved. Technically, what the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) says is right. Should a vacuum occur in an enlarged Adjournment, it would not be within my powers, nor should I 1279 wish to do so, to stop any hon. Member discussing any topic. We work it the other way as a matter of convenience.
The point of order, on which I am sorry to have caused the hon. Member so much interruption, is this. The argument now being discussed must be reasonably related to the Amendment being moved, that is, to the need to have a sitting tomorrow. Clearly, one gets into a realm not reasonably related to that proposition when it is said, "The topic that I say we ought to discuss tomorrow is one which we shall only be able to discuss if all the other business collapses and the Adjournment debate collapses and then I can get in rather irregularly at the end of it".
§ Mr. Hughes
I already envisaged the possibility of the collapse of the Motions in the names of the hon. Members for Twickenham, Leicester, North-West, and Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). There will then arise a situation in which certain hon. Members will not collapse. Then the Chief Government Whip will move the Adjournment. We shall have informed the Secretary of State for Scotland of the possibility that we wish to discuss on the Adjournment matters concerning Scotland. Then the field will be open for the discussion of the affairs of Scotland.
§ Mr. Speaker
I ought to tell the hon. Member how it strikes me. I do not think that in advancing his Amendment he can go through reciting every possible topic which might be discussed if the other business collapsed. That is impossible.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
Perhaps is would help all hon. Members if I say that, if the House did meet tomorrow, I should be perfectly ready— I am sure that many of my hon. Friends would be ready, also—to attend the House and move the first Motion, which would occupy the whole day.
§ Mr. Hughes
That certainly is a strong point in favour of my Amendment. The hon. Member for Twickenham is prepared to make the supreme sacrifice and give up his place in Westminster Abbey, if he has one, because he attaches such importance to the extension of industrial ownership.
§ Mr. W. Hamilton
Mr. Speaker, in the event of the House sitting tomorrow, and 1280 the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) not being here, would I be in order in moving the Motion on the Order Paper concerning profit sharing in industry?
§ Mr. Speaker
No. The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) could not move the Motion in the hypothetical circumstances he states.
§ Mr. Hughes
This has brought a new element into the debate. In the event of the hon. Member for Twickenham moving his Motion to call attention to the desirability of the wider ownership of industrial shares, we would point out that that could be abundantly illustrated by the need for getting a different kind of wider ownership of industrial shares in Scotland. If the House met tomorrow, I do not think that it would be beyond the ingenuity and persistance of Scottish Members ultimately to raise the question of unemployment in Scotland. However, I do not wish to pursue that. Probably my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) will be able to do so.
I detected in the speech of the Leader of the House a rather aggressive attitude towards Scottish Members. He said that the Scots would appear on any occasion to speak indefinitely on any subject. He must have been at a very difficult meeting of the Cabinet presided over by the Prime Minister, who is, of course, a Scot. Even if there are long speeches at Cabinet meetings, Scottish Members can make very short and very relevant speeches when discussing unemployment in Scotland. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to see a model of conciseness and brevity in debate, he should read the account of a meeting in Glasgow, where 41 Scottish Members met to discuss Scottish questions. They did it all in a time limit of ten minutes and five minutes.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not know what rules of order applied to that meeting, but it seems a little far away from the Motion.
§ Mr. Speaker
There are many charming proposals, but I would rather not rule on that one so that we can get on with business.
§ Mr. Hughes
I think that I have said enough to suggest that there is what legal Members call a prima facie case for my Amendment. It is not an unreasonable Amendment. If it is defeated, I hope that the Home Secretary will enjoy himself at the wedding. I am quite sure that if Mr. Richard Dimbleby were to collapse as a result of an outburst of emotion, the Home Secretary would gallantly fill his place. I move the Amendment because I believe that out priorities are wrong. I am sure that our people wish the Royal couple every success in their future life, but we want priority to be given to Parliament and to the matters we should be discussing tomorrow.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
The whole House will be rather sorry for the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). He had obviously prepared his speech at some length—as we have heard —before he knew that the Government were prepared to give Government time for consideration of the Motions already on the Order Paper for tomorrow. Yet, and here we must admire him, he was completely undeterred. He went along with his confused and confusing argument with the same verve, the same lack of conviction, and the same synthetic-sincerity that we have come to associate with all he says.
Apart from that statement of fact, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may remind you of a question that I tried to put to you last week—but I do not think that you quite saw through it. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House replied to an hon. Member opposite about the arrangements that the Government were to make for free access of hon. Members to this House tomorrow. I thought, "Well, on Friday, it is Motions." Most of us know just how many hon. Members come here on Friday—and for Motions. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire certainly does not, and I think I can say of a number of other Scottish hon. Members, and a large number of English and Welsh hon. Members, that they would not have the slightest intention of being here. The 1282 only hon. Members who can be depended on to be present are the movers of the Motions and the unfortunate Government spokesmen who might have to answer.
It was then, Mr. Speaker, that I asked you, on a point of order, whether you could give an estimate of the number of hon. Members who would be likely to be affected by these Motions being postponed from tomorrow to another date—
§ Mr. Speaker
I must remind the hon. Baronet, with great respect, that I told him on the last occasion that it was not a point of order for me to deal with. Making estimates of Friday attendances is astonishingly difficult—hon. Members seem to come out of holes in the ground in hordes at four o'clock sometimes.
§ Sir T. Moore
I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you have studied the matter more deeply than I have, but the fact remains that on an ordinary Friday the average number of hon. Members whose attendance would likely to be disrupted by the non-sitting of the House would be limited to about 20. With the competition of the wedding of Princess Margaret, we know perfectly well that the House would be very lucky if it saw more hon. Members present than the movers of the three Motions.
The whole thing, therefore, is a storm in a teacup, as everyone knows, including the hon. Member for South Ayrshire—
§ Mr. Lawson
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that if the Scottish Members on this side thought that tomorrow there would be any chance of discussing Scottish unemployment, they would not be here in all their numbers—coming out of all the holes in the ground through which it is possible to come?
§ Sir T. Moore
Scottish Members would certainly come here if they thought there was a possibility of making a speech—and, preferably, a long one.
Mr. Speaker, you have given this matter consideration and have decided that it is not a point of order. The whole thing is a storm in a teacup, deliberately engineered to give the hon. Member for South Ayrshire another 1283 opportunity of raising a hare that nobody wanted to chase. I therefore hope that nothing more will be said, but that we all join together in wishing Princess Margaret a very happy wedding and a very happy married life.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) starts from a false premise—
§ Mr. Hamilton
The Leader of the House has indicated that he does not propose to give up any public time, but is providing an alternative Friday that was also private Members' time, or so I understand. He did that in a clear and obvious attempt to scotch the Scotsmen's attempt to debate the most important social problem in Scotland.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will acquit any of us on this side of any discourtesy to the people involved in tomorrow's proceedings. There is no disrespect whatsoever in that regard— but the right hon. Gentleman's original decision was based precisely on the grounds that there would be difficulty in providing access to the House for hon. Members. When I raised the possibility of debating Scottish unemployment tomorrow, he doubted very much whether many hon. Members would be here in any event, and that the attendance would not match the importance of the subject.
As to access, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) asked who decided on this day. It is a working day for this House, and it is a working day for the country. I might also ask: why decide on London as the venue for this big event? Why not have it in Balmoral? After all, Princess Margaret is a Scot, and there is 6 per cent. unemployment in the Balmoral area—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The fact that the ceremony is not to take place in Balmoral does not appear to me to be a reason why this House should sit tomorrow. It is to that that the hon. Gentleman should address himself.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I suggest that had another venue been originally decided 1284 on this Motion would not have been necessary. That is my only point on that.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire referred to congestion, and at Question Time during the last week or two he has referred to the cost of tomorrow's operation. I am not so much concerned about the cost of the actual ceremony, but I am concerned about the cost to industry and commerce, which would have been avoided had my suggestion been accepted. It is, of course, too late to deal with that, but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in his assumption that had the House sat tomorrow there would have been nobody here.
I can tell him that were the House to sit tomorrow, and had he announced that because of other commitments the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and other hon. Members could not attend and that he would, therefore, leave the field to the Scots Members to debate a subject of our own choosing, there would have been a full turn-out—on this side, at any rate—to debate that over-riding social problem across the Border.
I ask the hon. Gentleman not to underestimate the lack of impact of tomorrow's events on Scottish Members whose minds are exercised by this problem. I have in my area a tremendous problem and there are other areas of Scotland which have the same, and the minds of some people there will not be on the tinsel and the glitter or the brass that we shall see and hear tomorrow. So long as the problem exists we shall have it uppermost in our minds, and we should certainly have liked an opportunity to debate it tomorrow.
In the event, I feel that it would be a good gesture on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to give us an undertaking that he will find a day for us. We should not have caused this slight disturbance today—I was going to use the word "rumpus"—had an undertaking been given last week, or even after Questions today, that we could debate this Scottish problem at some time in the future. On this wedding eve, it would be a nice gesture to Scottish Members and to the Scots leading lady tomorrow if the right hon. Gentleman were to say, "All right; in the very near and foreseeable future 1285 Scottish Members shall have an opportunity to debate this extremely important social problem."
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
I think that it is only right to say that the three people most intimately concerned with tomorrow's business are the movers of the three Motions already on the Order Paper. I think that I can say without fear of contradiction, on behalf of all three hon. Members concerned, one of whom is in the Chamber now, apart from myself, that we realise that tomorrow is a very important occasion which the public will appreciate very widely indeed and which will have repercussions all over the Commonwealth and the world. In the light of those considerations, despite the fact that the Motions are very important and we knew that several hon. Members were anxious to come and speak on them, we were willing to give up tomorrow's business, thinking it right that the House should take a holiday and meet on another occasion. With that, I hope that we shall be able to decide the matter very soon.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
The attitude of the Government throughout has been somewhat curious. It will be within the recollection of the House that the date of this Royal wedding was announced on 9th March. It will be within the recollection of the House also that not until 26th April, and than in reply to a Question by one of my hon. Friends, did the Government announce that the House would not sit. The reason given for this somewhat belated decision taken so long a time after the date of the original announcement, according to the Leader of the House, was that:On consideration of the … difficulties of approach to the Chamber … and out of regard to the solemnity and importance of the occasion"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1960; Vol. 622, c. 31],the House would not sit.
In moving the Motion, the Home Secretary, in his capacity as Leader of the House, made it quite clear that the argument founded on difficulty of access does not apply, so the excuse he made for his announcement on 26th April, 1286 based on difficulty of access, is no longer relevant.
We come now to the other leg of his argument, regard for the solemnity and importance of the occasion. The only comment I make on that, with all respect, is that it has taken the Government a long time to be seized of the solemnity and importance of the occasion. It took them from 9th March until 26th April to realise how solemn it was. I feel that there is a certain amount of humbug about the Government's attitude in this matter, and, frankly, I think that I should put that on record.
I will not pursue the argument further. There is only one argument which can be adduced in favour of the Motion. It is that, unlike the 257 sailors who are sailing on the Royal Yacht tomorrow, we at least know when we are due back.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I wish to make one small but important point. While the right hon. Gentleman has been conveying the felicitations of the House on this auspicious event and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has been devoting himself, as always, to duty, it has, apparently, escaped the right hon. Gentleman's attention when thinking about access to the House that a lunatic, in the early hours of the morning of Monday or Tuesday, erected enormous doors across Bridge Street. These doors afford only limited means of entry and exit; the traffic is forced into two streams each of which has to work its way very slowly through.
Yesterday, in approaching this building—this is literally true—it took me 20 minutes to pass from one end of Westminster Bridge to the other.
§ Mr. Hale
You did not have the advantage, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, of being here when the Home Secretary addressed the House. He devoted his remarks entirely, or almost entirely, to the subject of access. A great deal of his time was spent in saying that there would be provision of free access to the House tomorrow even if the House did not sit. Whether it sat or not, he said, he had made provision. I am trying to 1287 deal very briefly with that point. Car labels had been issued, whether the car labels would be used or not. My point is that the car labels cannot be used if the situation to which I am referring continues.
I do not wish to carry on for long about it. I do not object to these arrangements for tomorrow. It may be very necessary, very proper and sensible to have such a structure in the road for the protection of crowds. But why could it not have been put up tonight? Why has it to be there for three days in one of the busiest places of London? Why should the A.A.—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Whether the obstruction was put up tonight or three days ago does not affect the Motion.
§ Mr. Hale
But whether we sit tomorrow depends to a great extent upon it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire has suggested that we sit tomorrow. My submission is that it is almost physically impossible to sit tomorrow, in spite of the arrangements made, because of the obstructions.
I do not wish to develop the point at length, but I must insist that three days is a little too much. No doubt, this erection was designed on the advice of the highest military and technical experts. No doubt it will not last very long. If this is the work of the Minister of Transport, it is time that something was done. After his speeches in Chicago and elsewhere in America, I suggest that the Leader of the House should have a quiet word with him and ask him to be a little more sensible in future.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
My concern is not with private Members' time on this occasion, or with Scottish Members—not least, of course, because Scottish Members would not permit any other Member to be concerned on their behalf—but with what appears to be a very important issue, namely, that the 1288 decision not to sit tomorrow has been to some extent forced upon the House by outside events. If that is so, I suggest that it is rather serious.
I understood that the decision not to sit tomorrow was taken, after consultation with both sides, on the basis that very many Members would probably wish to be elsewhere. I do not argue for or against that; it is a different matter. However, it has since been suggested to me that the Metropolitan Police made representations that they would not be able to guarantee access for hon. Members to this House if there were a sitting. If that is so, it seems extraordinary that Parliament cannot sit because of a factor over which it, apparently, has no control. I should have thought that the whole purpose of a Sessional Order was to ensure that Parliament, in its desire or decision to sit or not to sit, should be under no duress as a result of any other events.
It was not essential that the wedding should be held tomorrow. It could have been held on a Saturday. I got married on a Saturday. I had a honeymoon for £12. It could have been held on Sunday, or during the Recess. Alternatively, if it was necessary that the wedding should be held on a Friday, knowing that it would mean that this House could not sit, the decision should have been debated by this House. The final decision whether this House sits must surely always remain solely with this House alone, and with no other outside activity.
That is the only point which I wish to make, but I think that it transcends all others. I understand that one of the original reasons for the introduction of Sessional Orders was that some of the Princess Margaret's royal predecessors occasionally had processions which prevented people coming into the House. If the matter were turned full circle, that would be a pity. I am sure that every hon. Member extends his best and sincerest wishes to Princess Margaret and her fiance. Everyone wishes them, and any other young people who get married tomorrow or any other day, the very best, but it is essential that Parliament should decide when it sits and does not sit.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I should like shortly to reply to the debate. The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) wanted 1289 to know whether the Government would give time after Whitsun to compensate for the time lost tomorrow. It is quite clear that the Government are giving their own time to compensate private Members for the time that they are losing. I think that that is an indication not only that we do not wish to deprive private Members of their privileges, but also, in view of the importance of the occasion, that we thought it right ourselves to provide time to compensate my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and others for the time which they will lose. I hope that that is an indication of the importance which the Government and the House attach to the event which will take place tomorrow.
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) said that outside events should not influence the judgment of Parliament. I absolutely agree with him. That is part of our ancient tradition. If the House were to decide, in response to the Amendment moved to my Motion, that we should sit tomorrow, that would be a decision of the House itself. Our liberties are preserved by the fact that there can be no decision by the House not to sit tomorrow without a Motion being moved, having it debated, if necessary voting on it and deciding it in the proper manner. In that way, we preserve absolutely our liberty to sit tomorrow if we should so desire. The hon. Member is perfectly at liberty, quite beyond the bounds of legitimate criticism, in expressing the view that we should sit tomorrow.
The other point raised concerned access. It was said by the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) that there is some discrepancy between my original remarks and my remarks today. My remarks today, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition, were that we are doing our utmost to make it possible for an hon. Member who wishes to come to the House at a reasonable time tomorrow to get here, but I made it plain that there can be no absolute guarantee. The words of the Sessional Order are thatthe streets leading to this House be kept free and open, and that no obstruction be permitted to hinder the passage of Members to and from this House …The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), in one of his characteristic interventions, referred to an obstruction 1290 to which he takes strong objection. I am informed that, unfortunately, these obstructions have been essential for the proper conduct of the crowds and affairs tomorrow. Whether that be so or not, we cannot guarantee absolutely the access tomorrow that the Sessional Order claims. I think that if hon. Members want to come to the House tomorrow, they will be able to reach here in the way I suggested at the times I suggested. I still think that it could not have been guaranteed that the House would have had a very easy or satisfactory attendance here tomorrow. Therefore, that was one of the items that we took into consideration.
To deal with the speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I thought that every one of his arguments answered itself, which is typical of his orations on these great occasions. He started with a magnificent flourish, saying that we must give priority to the widening of industrial democracy and the needs of youth in our time. It is precisely because the Government think that a proper time, with opportunity for all Members to attend, should be given that we are deliberately not sitting tomorrow, when there would probably be a truncated audience and not sufficient opportunity to give priority to the subjects. It is a deliberate decision by the Government that some of our time should be given for the furtherance of industrial democracy in Scotland and elsewhere and for attention to the Youth Service and other matters.
To follow through the absolute inconsistency of the hon. Member's arguments, he went on to build the second part of his speech on the belief that all these subjects would immediately collapse, and that Scottish Members would not have an opportunity of debating them. Never in the history of Parliament and our great debaters has there ever been such inconsistency in argument. First, we are told that the House is panting to widen industrial democracy and the next moment Scottish Members axe willing to pounce on the vacuum created by the subjects being undebatable.
This shows the hollow character of the hon. Member's rhetoric and puts his speech where we wish it to be—not among the greatest contributions to English oratory, but as a genial and perfectly warm-hearted and open attempt to keep open the rights of Members to 1291 meet when they will. It is in that way that I accept the speech, at any rate.
I should like to conclude by saying in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), and to other hon. Members who have spoken, that I think that the spirit in which this matter has been discussed should indicate to those who are engaged on one of life's greatest adventures tomorrow, Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret and her future partner, that the House of Commons wishes them well. We shall not be sitting tomorrow, but we shall certainly take the opportunity to widen industrial democracy when the honeymoon is over.
§ Question, That "Monday next" stand part of the Question, put and agreed to.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn till Monday next.