HC Deb 25 October 1960 vol 627 cc2163-88

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do meet on Thursday at Eleven o'clock and that no Questions be taken after Twelve o'clock.—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]

3.58 p.m.

Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that this is a debatable Motion. May I refer to the point that I made a little earlier? I feel that perhaps I did not make myself very clear, and I should now like to do so.

As I understand, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) has now given notice orally of his intention under the Ten Minutes Rule—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—under Standing Order No. 35 to introduce a Bill concerning the amendment of the Rent Act. As I understand, tomorrow the procedure will be that the Bill will be given a formal First Reading, and then notification will be given that the next occasion on which it will be debated will be "tomorrow", which, in Parliamentary terms, never comes.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and the House to consider whether, if some of us have a matter of some urgency concerning proposed legislation before the Session ends, we ought to allow Thursday's sitting to end at 12 o'clock. I think that I carry everybody with me, including Conservative Members, and particularly London Members, in saying that there is a great deal of hardship throughout London concerning rents, and that this is a matter which we ought to be allowed to debate—

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

On a point of order. Is this not a speech?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman is right. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) is not on a point of order; he is making a speech.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I therefore rise on a point of order. Is it correct to say that the Motion before the House, which the hon. Member is debating, really does terminate the proceedings of this Session at 12 o'clock on Thursday? Does not the Motion only say that the House shall sit at 11 o'clock and that no Questions be taken after 12 o'clock, and, therefore, anything which happens after that, strictly speaking, has nothing to do with the Motion before the House?

Mr. Speaker

That sounds a rather attractive proposition, but I think that I had better hear what the hon. Member for Bermondsey has to say about it.

Mr. Mellish

The point I am trying to make—and I should have thought that if it was clearly stated the hon. Member would have understood it—is that, if this Motion goes through, we understand that Thursday's business will terminate at 12 o'clock. [Hon. Members: "No."] If that is not so, then there is no determination of what we are to be debating on Thursday, and if that is so, I am willing to agree that for Thursday's debate we can stage a debate on rents, including perhaps the Rent Bill, and that would be in order. In fact, there is a grave likelihood of the House rising at 12 o'clock on Thursday, and this I do not want to happen.

Mr. Speaker

The difficulty is that the Motion does not say that, and it does not deal with the problem which the hon. Gentleman is talking about. This has reached the stage when I shall have to ask him to relate his observations to the Motion which he is discussing.

Mr. Mellish

With great respect, I am asking for your help. We on this side of the House are in a minority, though I appreciate that it is your desire and intention to help us, Mr. Speaker. As I read the Motion, it says that no Questions will be taken after 12 o'clock, and, in fact, the custom has been that after Question Time the House rises or the Session ends. What I am asking is, in view of the fact that there is so much other business to consider, whether it would be in order on Thursday to have a debate on one of those matters which many of my hon. Friends and I think are important and which are worrying the rest of the country, and to give notice that we intend to raise the whole question of rents in London?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not denying the hon. Member as much help as I can properly give him, but I cannot help him beyond the rules of order. The difficulty is that the Motion to which he is speaking, and the only one to which he can speak, does not govern what happens after Questions, which makes it rather difficult for. me to help him.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

May I, with great respect, ask if we are to have an explanation of the meaning of this Motion from the Government? If this Motion were to provide for meeting at the normal hour, 2.30 p.m., alter Questions there would be time for debating any other business, including the Rent Bill, which so many hon. Members are anxious to discuss, and which is a matter of urgent and grave concern to many tenants not only in London and Greater London, but throughout the provinces.

I submit that until we can get some indication of the Government's intentions, and we have a reason for the glib and deliberate refusal of the Minister for Housing and Local Government this afternoon to do anything about it—which I am sure has fallen with astonishment on everybody who heard it, and which will be read with widespread alarm in the country—it would surely be wrong to pass this Motion without knowing more about the Government's intentions. As I understand it, the only way that we can remedy that is by opposing this Motion.

You, Mr. Speaker, have intimated, and I have heard it rumoured, that on Thursday, after Questions, there may be a Royal Proclamation for the Prorogation of Parliament. Neither you nor I have any official knowledge about that. One reads various things in the newspapers, but the Proclamation proroguing Parliament is a matter for the Royal Prerogative, and I understand that the Royal Prerogative is a matter which we do not normally discuss.

Opinions may change. There may be an intention to prorogue, but that intention may be changed, and for all any of us officially know, something may happen which induces a change of plan on the part of those advising the Crown in regard to the Proclamation on Thursday, so that there may be no Prorogation. It may be perfectly proper that there should be no Proclamation and no Prorogation. I am sure that some of my hon. Friends would wish to argue that Parliament should not be prorogued until we have had an opportunity of—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must state clearly now that if I continue to be too indulgent to the hon. Gentleman, I shall be obliged to be too indulgent to somebody else. What this Motion does is expressed on the Order Paper. It has nothing whatever to do with Prorogation or anything happening after 12 o'clock on Thursday, except that there shall be no Questions after 12 o'clock. My duty requires me to confine the debate to that topic.

Mr. Mellish

Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in moving a manuscript Amendment to the Motion to delete the words "Eleven o'clock" and insert "Ten o'clock"? Would you accept that as an Amendment, so that we could then discuss it? That would give us one hour of which we could be certain so that we could discuss any other matters, apart from Questions on Thursday.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member cannot do that, anyhow, because he has spoken to it once on this problem. I would not feel much disposed to do that, because it will not improve the scope of the Motion for the purpose of his argument anyway.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what is meant by no Questions being taken after 12 o'clock? As I understand, if there are no questions before the House there can be no debate. Does that mean Questions to Ministers or Questions in the Parliamentary sense of something before the House? If it means the latter, then, of course, the Motion will debar us from any further discussion of any matter, because there will be no Question before the House, and if we pass this Motion we shall be debarred from further debate.

Mr. Speaker

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. Until someone corrects me, I shall proceed on it as meaning Questions to Ministers and go accordingly.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The House is in this difficulty. The Prime Minister and the Government are asking the House to accept this Motion, but we do not know what it means. As the discussion which has taken place so far has clearly indicated, some hon. Members do not know what this Motion means. I do not know what it means, and I am not prepared to accept it until I have heard from the Government Front Bench what it is that we are being asked to do.

On the face of it, it means that we do not know what is to happen after 12 o'clock on Thursday. It is of material concern to us that we should know what is to happen after 12 o'clock, because we do not know what Questions this Motion refers to—whether it is Questions to Ministers or a Question before the House. I think that the Leader of the House ought to show some respect for hon. Members by providing us with an explanation of the Government's intentions. Until that explanation is forthcoming, I propose to record my opposition to this Motion, if necessary by calling for a Division.

4.9 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

It might be convenient if I respond with courtesy to the request of the hon. Member who was so clearly muddled. I thought that he was in his place on 27th July of this year, when I clearly indicated what the procedure would be. Referring to Thursday, 27th October, I said: It is proposed to meet at 11 a.m. and Questions will be taken until 12 noon. It is expected that Prorogation will take place after Questions and that the new Session will be opened on Tuesday. 1st November."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 1862.] The House, therefore, had full advance notice of the Motion on the Order Paper.

The second question which arises is: what does it mean? It means that no Questions will be taken after 12 noon, and that, as you indicated in your Ruling on the matter, Mr. Speaker, and as I confirm, means that no Questions in the sense of Questions to Ministers will be asked after 12 o'clock. That is what it means.

Now, after notice given and running during all the length of the summer, and after my explanation of what it means, the third question to ask is whether there is anything sinister or original in this Motion. I have ascertained that the Motion conforms with the usual procedure on such occasions absolutely and accurately. It allows for Oral Questions, and it satisfies the Committee's request, which we had before we left, for Oral Questions to be taken on that day. There is, therefore, nothing sinister or unusual in this prior to a Prorogation.

The Queen will be opening the new Session of Parliament on 1st November. There will be ample opportunity then, during a long period ahead, for us to ventilate all matters which interest hon. Members. I think that it would be a pity if we departed from the normal procedure of the House by not passing a Motion of this type, which deals with the Prorogation in the normal way. I hope, therefore, that the House will accept the Motion as it is stated.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what would happen if the House refused his Motion?

Mr. Butler

The arrangements for Prorogation being made, presumably, we shall be summoned to another place. While I am, I hope, a loyal Member of the Commons and always ready to assert our independence, I certainly should not assert my independence so far as not to go to another place on that occasion to listen to the proclamation of Prorogation.

If the hon. Member does not feel in that mood, I cannot influence him, because I do not wish to deprive him or any hon. Member of his sense of independence. But this is the normal practice and, out of courtesy towards the procedure of the House and the system of proclamation and Prorogation, I think, frankly, that it would be a pity if the House were to pursue the matter further.

Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)

Does the Leader of the House remember that, at an earlier part of the Session, something rather important was going on when Black Rod knocked at the door? The House was very angry that Black Rod should interfere with the business of the House. This may be a matter of calling for the Prorogation of this Session, but does the right hon. Gentleman remember that occasion?

Mr. Butler

Yes, I remember that. It caused me some annoyance as well. I made a mental note that, so far as one can control the mysteries of Black Rod, one should endeavour to do so. But this occasion is somewhat different. That was an occasion of rather awkward timing which did not happen to suit the Commons House and which I think was a great pity. I hope that it will not happen again.

On this occasion, we have given due notice that Prorogation is to take place, and I think that it raises an entirely different question in relation to the intervention of Black Rod and his presence here.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

What the right hon. Gentleman has said about the episode involving Black Rod on an earlier occasion this Session is very interesting. It shows that those of my hon. Friends who then protested against the entry of Black Rod secured a notable success. They have drawn to his attention that it is not desirable that Black Rod should enter at times which do not suit the business of this House. But that, although important, of course, is not the immediate issue we are discussing.

On the immediate question of the Motion, it seems to me that the Home Secretary's speech has made it a good deal easier for us to see what exactly is in issue here. The right hon. Gentleman managed to get into his speech the very point which some of us were having difficulty in getting in under the rules of order. If I may say so, Mr. Speaker, we have found difficulty in referring to the fact that Prorogation is expected to take place after Questions on Thursday. The Home Secretary made no bones about it. He rested his argument on the fact that that was what was expected in July and is, apparently, still expected.

I submit, therefore, that we are in order in discussing the Motion on the clear assumption that it means more than appears. It means that we meet at 11 o'clock and have Questions until 12, but, more than that, it means that we do not have any other business that day. It is for that reason that a good many of my hon. Friends object to the Motion as it at present stands. Repeatedly at Question Time today there was raised the matter of rents, which affects the Metropolis in particular and affects other parts of the country, too. We had from the Minister of Housing and Local Government that stony indifference which marks his approach to the whole problem. It is not to be expected that London Members will be prepared to see this Session end without a further attempt to deal with the matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) has provided us in his proposed Bill with the instrument whereby that may be done. I hope that on Thursday it can either be made procedurally possible for the House to proceed with one of the stages of my hon. Friend's proposed Bill or, if that is impossible, that we shall find some other means of dealing with this extremely serious housing problem. That is what Thursday ought to be for.

We have in this House a good deal of old tradition and pageantry—the formal opening of the Session, the formalities of Prorogation, and so forth. With the aid of television, we are making these things known not only to our own people but to people all over the world. It is very important that we should not spread the impression that this House is mainly a place of pageantry. Pageantry has its place, but we ought to make clear to the world that this is a place of work as well. I should like to see Thursday devoted not only to the necessary pageantry of Prorogation but to the discussion of these urgent human problems.

It should not be beyond the wit of the Leader of the House to devise some means whereby that can be done. Otherwise, he may find that his proposed programme for Thursday is not altogether well received by hon. Members. He mentioned, when speaking of the earlier incident concerning Black Rod, that it caused him some annoyance. I ask him to remember that anyone acquainted with the history of the House knows that this House of Commons does not best maintain its dignity by always being conforming and polite. Some of its great historic moments have been rather violent and rumbustious upsets in the normal procedures of the House.

The right of the House of Commons at least to express a dislike of being prorogued when there is important business to be done in a Session was asserted as far back as the reign of King Charles II. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that, even earlier, one of your predecessors was forcibly held in the Chair in order to assert the right of the House to continue to legislate whether the Crown wished it to do so or not. If, therefore, some of my hon. Friends find that the proposed formal programme for Thursday is, in their judgment, not entirely adequate to the needs of the situation, the Leader of the House will have no occasion to say that he has not been given notice of that.

I plead not only for my hon. Friends. There are some hon. Members opposite—I see one of them in his place—who have from time to time protested an interest in the matter of London rents. Their assistance to us in Questions to the Minister of Housing this afternoon was not very notable, but, if we can have an opportunity to raise the matter on Thursday, they may be able to show how greatly interested they are. I raise this, therefore, as a matter which concerns all sections of the House.

I ask the Leader of the House to say, before he asks us to pass the Motion, that he will reconsider the programme for Thursday and that, if humanly possible, an opportunity will be given to the House to proceed with one of the stages of the Bill proposed to be introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East.

4.20 p.m.

Mr. R. A. Butler

At the invitation of the House, I intervene again. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has put the proposition that there should be an occasion for reviewing or discussing some stage of the Bill which the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) wishes to bring forward. I must remind the House, as I did not do during the interchanges with Mr. Speaker on the points of order, that the House itself came to a decision following upon the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, which, in paragraph 19, reported in this sense: … we think that Members ought to be given a longer period in which to inform themselves on the situation which it is proposed to remedy by legislative action". In view of that part of the Report of the Select Committee, which was passed by 18 votes to 3, on 8th February this year we passed an alteration to Standing Order No. 12, the proviso to which the hon. Member for Islington, East referred to, which gave proper sanction to that finding of the Select Committee.

The only remaining issue is that raised by the hon. Member in his points of order, namely, whether notice during the Recess should count. Mr. Speaker has ruled that, in fact, notice must be given while the House is sitting. The House, as late as 8th February this year, bound itself to a new procedure which, in my view at.any rate, makes it virtually impossible for the hon. Member's Bill to be discussed. That is as a result of a largely majority view of our own Select Committee on Procedure. It is therefore, in my view, impossible to consider the hon. Member's Bill in the form suggested.

I do not see how we can go back on a decision taken by ourselves on 8th February, a decision taken without any opposition. If the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends felt so strongly about this, why they did not make an objection when we passed this Standing Order on 8th February, I do not understand. It has now been passed, and I think that it is in the spirit both of Erskine May and of the practice of this House. That is the particular proposition about the Bill which corresponds with and enlarges upon the Rulings already given on that subject from the Chair. I think that we are all in agreement that that is our procedure, and that is the order of affairs.

On the general proposition, I do not think it is unreasonable that the Government should adhere to the terms of the Motion. It corresponds exactly to precedent. There is nothing unusual in Prorogation taking place in exactly this way. I have looked up the precedents and it follows previous practice. It is the Government's intention, having given notice as early as the end of July, that this procedure should stand.

4.23 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

The Leader of the House will recall that before the decision that we should come back on 25th October was taken the Opposition made representations in favour of this on the ground that it was not possible to foresee exactly what would happen during the Recess and that we might need to ask questions and to raise matters in the House of an urgent character before the Queen's Speech and the debate upon the Address. My hon. Friends have made it perfectly plain what concerns them in particular, namely, the problems and difficulties associated with the enforcement of the Rent Act in London. This applies to other parts of the country as well, but it has been raised this afternoon in particular by London Members.

The Leader of the House has been pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), in particular, to see if he cannot find some way by which the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) can be discussed. The right hon. Gentleman has rested his opposition to that on the change in the Standing Orders pursuant to and following the recommendations of the Select Committee. I will not pursue that particular point because I think that my hon. Friends, although they strongly support the Bill of my hon. Friend, probably would be satisfied if we could have a debate on the situation, whether it takes place upon the Bill of my hon. Friend or not.

The right hon. Gentleman said in his earlier remarks that he was very much concerned when, on an earlier occasion, the entry of Black Rod, or the attempted entry of Black Rod, was greeted with considerable resentment and hostility by hon. Members. I am sure that he would not wish the same thing to occur again. He said that he was not exactly certain when Prorogation would occur. There was a certain mystery about the whole proceedings. However, I think that we have complete faith in him in his capacity as Leader of the House to see that Prorogation takes place at a different time if that is the wish of the House.

I should like to put this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. Why must we limit our sitting to this single hour on Thursday? Why should not there be a rather longer sitting, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) suggested, either that we should meet earlier or that Prorogation should take place rather later? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this point and to see if he can arrange a later time for Prorogation so that in the interval between the end of Questions and Prorogation a debate on the rent situation can take place.

4.26 p.m.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)

The implication in the Motion of the Leader of the House appears to be quite clear. The right hon. Gentleman has to stick to his programme because notice of this was given to the House before it rose. But the only reason why the House agreed to rise and accepted the suggestions which he put forward was upon a clear understanding from the Government benches that if anything of urgency happened in the meantime they would have no hesitation in giving hon. Members on both sides the opportunity to make points in relation to that situation.

Since then there has been a complete change in the situation in London, Middlesex and other parts of the country which has created considerable hardship for hundreds of thousands of people. It is well known on both sides of the House that Members on this side have very specific propositions which they wish to put to hon. Members opposite. It was also said by the Minister that he would be prepared to hear suggestions and to examine the evidence. There is considerable evidence of considerable hardship which exists as a result of the Rent Act. If the only reason why we cannot change this situation is that the programme was laid down before the House rose, it is clearly now a matter of sufficient urgency to be reasonable to ask the Leader of the House to reconsider the position. Surely the House is not run for the benefit of particular arrangements. I should have thought that it was run primarily for the benefit of Her Majesty's subjects and to consider things affecting their welfare which arise from time to time.

You, Sir, said that my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) could not move a manuscript Amendment to change the time from 11 o'clock to 10 o'clock, which would enable us to have some discussion on a matter of urgency without impinging upon the Prorogation, because he had already spoken upon the issue. Would you, Sir, be prepared to accept a manuscript Amendment from someone who has not spoken on the issue asking that the time be changed from 11 o'clock to 10 o'clock so that some time at least can be given to a discussion of this very serious subject which not only affects the people concerned but also raises very real implications concerning the ability of the Government to be able to deal with this situation? May I ask you, Sir, whether you would be prepared to accept a manuscript Amendment?

Mr. Speaker

No; I do not think it right to do that. I think that the debate has run quite wide enough to make the point plain to Her Majesty's Government and to everybody else.

4.29 p.m.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

Before the Leader of the House answers the request made by the Opposition, may I make my position perfectly plain? If there is any spare time going, I want to discuss the position of those living on small fixed incomes. I do not know what my right hon. Friend will say, but I hope that before he says, in his usual polite tones, that he will consider what has been said by various right hon. and hon. Members opposite he will remember that I live in a different part of the country from London and that if there is any spare time going I should like to take advantage of it. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will consider my request, because I should like a very wide debate on the position of those living on small fixed incomes.

I should like to suggest to my right hon. Friend that it would be as well if we adhered to what has been the practice for very many years. I am horrified to hear all these criticisms of Black Rod. I am delighted when he comes into the House. I feel a sense of security that their Lordships' House and this honourable Chamber should get together. I do not think it is very fitting that we should discuss an incident which happened as a result of bad timing. If we are to do anything on Thursday, I hope that someone from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Department will be on the Front Bench to deal with the points that I should like to raise.

4.31 p.m.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

I do not know who has threatened to attack the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), but I am certain that she is capable of looking after herself without the assistance of Black Rod. However, I am glad that she feels a sense of security when he is about.

I hope that the hon. Lady will support us in this matter. Many of the people who are most affected and who can be helped only by the legislation which is proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) are people on small fixed incomes. Therefore, I am certain that the hon. Lady could make many of the points which she wishes to make in the debate which we are trying to arrange.

The Leader of the House said that we should display courtesy towards the customs of the House. I agree with that, and so do the vast majority of my hon. Friends, but I also think that we have to have a certain amount of courtesy and common compassion towards people in danger of being rendered homeless. I believe that while we can observe due courtesy to the House we can at the same time find a few hours between now and Prorogation on Thursday to make sure that the Bill put forward by my hon. Friend goes through at least another of its stages. It is necessary to have legislation to help these people. It is the only way in which they can possibly be helped.

Unless we are able to proceed some way before we rise, it will not be possible for a Private Member to bring in a Bill for at least another month. We have had no suggestion at all that the Government would bring forward such a Bill, and yet the Government are the only people who are in a position to bring in a Bill during November because of the Standing Order which prevents Private Members from introducing legislation until after the procedure of the Ballot. It is absolutely essential that we should go some stage further with the Bill this Session and in due course carry the Bill over to the next Session and continue with the work then.

I hope that the Leader of the House will look again at the Motion. Subject to anything that you may say, Mr. Speaker, I should not think it was absolutely necessary to pass the Motion today. Cannot the Leader of the House withdraw the Motion today to give him time to look further into the matter, reconsider it and perhaps put a slightly different Motion on the Order Paper for tomorrow? I should have thought that that would have been in time for dealing with the time of starting and finishing business on Thursday.

We have put several points to the Leader of the House. Today, Mr. Speaker, you have taken advantage of the fact that you have a period of 24 hours in which to consider a point of order put to you, and you are to report back to the House upon that point of order tomorrow. I am convinced that the House would be prepared to give the Leader of the House exactly the same facilities so that he could think about the matter for a short while and bring forward another Motion tomorrow. I am certain that if he takes advantage of a few hours in order to look at the matter, he will find a way of allowing my hon. Friend to bring forward his Bill for Second Reading on Thursday.

I notice the Leader of the House shaking his head. He has informed us that it was only in February of this year that the House decided that in order to give hon. Members time for mature and proper consideration we should have seven days' notice for Ten Minute Bills. That is perfectly correct. Were we in normal circumstances whereby the House had been in session during the past few weeks, I do not think any of my hon. Friends would have tried to raise the point in the way we are being forced to raise it now.

However, I ask the Leader of the House to reflect on the fact that my hon. Friend, at some expense and considerable trouble to himself, made sure almost four weeks ago that every hon. Member had a copy of his Bill. Thus, every hon. Member has had about four weeks in which to give due consideration to his proposals. That, of course, is not in accordance with the Standing Orders, but I should have thought that the spirit of the Standing Orders had been fully and amply complied with. I am certain that every hon. Member is fully aware of what my hon. Friend proposes and has had plenty of time to consider the matter, and that my hon. Friend's actions have been in compliance with the spirit of the Standing Orders. I cannot understand why the Leader of the House is keeping to the Report of the Select Committee—

Mr. Mellish

It might help my hon. Friend to develop his argument if he knows that only one Conservative hon. Member has replied saying that he has a copy of the Bill and offering support.

Mr. Reynolds

That does not surprise me. Only on 27th July, the day when the Business for this week was announced, we were told by the Minister of Housing and Local Government that there was no problem in this matter. Therefore, we did not know at that time that it would be necessary to deal with this matter today. On the same day as the Leader of the House told us that we should meet on Thursday at 11 o'clock and have Prorogation in the afternoon, the Minister of Housing and Local Government told the House, at about 6 o'clock in the morning, that there was no problem at all so far as rents were concerned, and that there were just one or two odd swindlers with whom he wished to deal. Yet less than a month later hon. Members were bringing forward all sorts of cases and the Minister changed his mind and sent out a circular ordering panic action on the part of local authorities.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We really cannot discuss this difficult problem of rents on this Motion. I trust that the hon. Member will bear that in mind.

Mr. Reynolds

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, if I was going outside the Motion.

I think it is possible for the Government to show willingness and take the Motion back today and have a few hours of mature consideration of the problem, and I am certain that it is not beyond the wit and brains of the Leader of the House to find a Motion to put on the Order Paper tomorrow which will meet the requests from this side of the House and enable us to get a move on with some legislation which will rid many thousands of families in the London area of the terrible anxieties from which they are suffering at the present time.

4.38 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I support the suggestion that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) has just made, that in view of the discussion which has been proceeding for some little time now the Leader of the House should take the Motion back and reconsider it.

Like the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), I am not a London Member, and, like her—I hope I am interpreting her speech correctly—I believe that the more subjects there are which will not brook delay the more necessary it is to take such time as we have remaining to us in this Session to look at them. There is really no reason why the whole of Thursday afternoon and evening should be wasted merely because we have dealt with Prorogation in this way in the past.

I cannot agree with the hon. Lady about Black Rod. The only sense of security I get in connection with that gentleman is when we shut the door very firmly in his face and refuse admittance to him so that we can get on with our business. I get a very real sense of insecurity when I see the doors opened to him and everybody trooping into another place, because I do not know what in the world they are going to bring back.

As I understood his speech, the difficulty of the Leader of the House was that somehow or other it would be too hasty and that hon. Members would not have the opportunity of close consideration which we agreed when we altered the Standing Orders that they ought to have before they consider a Measure of this kind. But it seemed to me, with great respect, that that was really standing the argument on its head. If my hon. Friend gets the opportunity, say on Thursday, of proceeding with the next stage of his Bill, that would be the Second Reading. Let us suppose that in an excess of sanity on both sides of the House his Motion for Second Reading were to be accepted. It could go no further. That would be the last day of the Session. The Bill would have to be introduced again later on.

Mr. Reynolds

While it would be unusual, I do not think it would be impossible, if the House really desired it, to have a carry-over or suspension Motion to enable the Bill to continue.

Mr. Silverman

I dare say. I am not quite sure whether that is the position or not. At one time it certainly was not possible. Whether it is possible now or not I do not know, but that is not really material to my argument. What would normally take place were the Bill to be moved again in the next Session or carried over would be that there would, in any case, be an interval for reflection which the Leader of the House postulated is necessary and the absence of Which he thought was fatal to dealing with the Bill on Thursday. The absence of it is not fatal at all because the debate would provide hon. Members with the information that they require and then there would be a pause for reflection and the Government would consider the matter again.

I listened to the Minister of Housing this afternoon. I would not myself withhold from him the tribute of sincerity and good will if he says he is really very anxious about this matter, but I am bound to say that his answers to Questions revealed a most astonishing ignorance about What the state of affairs not only in London is in this matter—a really astonishing ignorance in a Minister. He would not appoint that committee of inquiry, because he did not want to know, and the reason he did not want to know was that he had taken up his dogmatic, doctrinal attitude about rent control and was really disturbed because he might be faced with sufficient information to undermine it and to force him to put right the mistake he committed several years ago now.

In the debate we want he would get a lot of information which he could not resist, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to take this stand, not to be so rigid in this formal interpretation of the Motion as to prevent the House from having this opportunity. I ask him to think about the matter again and to take the Motion back to see if we cannot have Thursday afternoon so that my hon. Friend can move to bring in his Bill.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)

I can understand that the right hon. Gentleman may not want to take this Motion back because we might be in difficulties without having this question before us, but there seems to me to be one very simple solution which would really be in accord with his duties as Leader of the House both to sense the feeling of the House and also to preserve its rights and its dignity. The real question is to get a debate some time on Thursday. It is really all that is needed. The Motion merely says that we shall have Questions till 12 o'clock. It does not say in form what should happen thereafter. Clearly, arrangements could be made by which we could have an hour or two more time after Questions and before Prorogation.

There are two main points that I want to put. The right hon. Gentleman rested his case on Standing Order No. 12 and the new proviso about the seven days' notice, but my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) is introducing his Bill under Standing Order No. 35, which is a quite different point. If the House wishes, it does enable very speedy action. It says in paragraph (2): When a bill is presented either in pursuance of an order of the House or under the provisions of paragraph (1) of this order, the Bill shall be read the first time without any question being put, shall be ordered to be read a second time on such day as the Member presenting it shall appoint, and shall be ordered to be printed. It is quite clear that the House does not intend this seven days' delay rule to apply to this Standing Order, otherwise it would have attached the same proviso to it. The House left open to itself, if it wishes, a provision by which a Bill of this kind can be proceeded with at great speed. There is a distinction, which I put to the right hon. Gentleman, between Standing Order No. 12 and Standing Order No 35.

That is the first point I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The other is that the rights and dignity of this House are primarily in the charge of the right hon. Gentleman. He must know that there is very, very deep feeling indeed on this matter, the sort of feeling that will lead to some sort of expression being found for it, if not altogether in accord with the normal ways of the House.

The right hon. Gentleman also, of course, knows that this House determines when Black Rod shall come into it. This House always formally, as my hon. Friend says, shuts the door in the face of Black Rod. This is to preserve our right to determine for ourselves when Black Rod comes into the Chamber. Nobody but a Member of Parliament has the right to enter this Chamber without the leave of the House. This applies to Black Rod, too.

But, of course, there can be in grave moments, moment of deep feeling, all sorts of devices found by which attempts can be made to assert our right which is formally preserved, to make it effective and to determine for ourselves when Black Rod shall come into the Chamber, and it is for us as a House to decide whether he shall come at 12 o'clock, or 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock. This is, of course, primarily in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to arrange, but he would do it on behalf of the House, as a right of the House. The House has this right, and it may want to seek to assert this right, and if the right hon. Gentleman will not assert it for it, perhaps it may want to try to assert it for itself.

I beg the right hon. Gentleman to realise how deep is the feeling on this matter, that this feeling could be very largely allayed if this very simple provision were made by the right hon. Gentleman for delaying the appearance of Black Rod so that we could, either by means of that Bill or, failing that, by a general discussion on this matter, have the means of getting an hour or two at the end of Questions on Thursday. That would not stop us carrying this Motion, as we could if we had that assurance. Of course, if we had that assurance we would not object to Questions ending at 12 o'clock. It is to the House ending at 12 o'clock that we object. If we do not have that assurance, and as, in fact, this Motion means that the House must stop at 12 o'clock, we feel so deeply about it that we shall have no alternative to dividing the House now.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The House will have to come to a decision, but I should like to say this before we come to a decision. It is my duty, clearly, to pay attention to the mood of the House, which I have always attempted to do, and it is also my duty to respect the traditions and practice of the House. The point I must make is this. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has said that there is very deep feeling indeed on this matter—

Mr. Mellish

On this side.

Mr. Butler

Yes, and on both sides of the House, as on any matter involving compassion and personal problems and controversies arising on an occasion like this. I understand that, but what I do not understand—notice of this matter having been given since July last—is that the Opposition now choosing the business during the remainder of this Session, for these last few days, have not made any representation about this business. For example, tomorrow the Opposition have indicated that they wish to discuss railway transport questions. We have had no indication that they wish to discuss the rents issue.

Mr. Gaitskell

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that what was proposed by the Government was that we should use one of these days for one of the nationalised industries—out of the three taken in the year—and we have chosen transport; but the Government have chosen the business of the week as a whole.

Mr. Butler

There was no indication by the Opposition that they wished to raise this matter when we originally suggested what the business should be, nor has there been any indication during the summer by the Opposition that they objected to my statement of 27th July about the nature of the business for Thursday. We must pay attention to that. If there had been this deep feeling, I can only feel they would have made representations to me for time for this debate. I had no representation made to me for this debate. This is the first intimation that I have had about it. This does not seem to me to indicate that they have given very deep feeling or consideration to the matter before.

In the circumstances I do not think that we can go back on the arrangement about Prorogation. This has been arranged. Indeed, my reason is not so much that I like it on this occasion but that I think it would be bad to create a precedent departing from the ordinary arrangements for Prorogation, such as notice has been given of, on Thursday.

There is only one more thing that I can say. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen feel so deeply, if the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends wish to make representations that we should make some adjustment in the business tomorrow, and if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to enter into a discussion on that line, I am perfectly ready to have it. But I think it is my duty to the House to adhere to the arrangements about Prorogation. In the circumstances, that is the best offer I can make. As we have a lot of important business today I think that we had better come to a decision on the matter.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that he would be willing to suspend the Rule for two hours tomorrow?

Mr. Butler

I am suggesting that I would respond to any representation, as we have always done on business from the Opposition, if the Opposition choose to make it and if they give us an opportunity. I should be very willing to listen to any representation.

Mr. Reynolds

Can the right hon. Gentleman suggest how my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) can have his Bill on the Order Paper for Second Reading for tomorrow evening?

Mr. Butler

Without reverting to the Bill, I think that the House must have some regard to Standing Orders passed only in February of this year. However good the Bill may be, it is somewhat inhibited, except under the operation of Standing Order No. 35. But I do not see any other way in which we can aid the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) with his Bill. Even if we did, it would have to take its place after a certain number of other Private Members' Bills and, let use face it, in all probability it would be exceedingly difficult to get a Bill through in the remaining two days of the Session. We must have regard to reality.

Mr. Mellish

Surely the right hon. Gentleman must consider this matter from the point of view of the public outside who do not understand our procedure. We have been away three months. We have come back today and we rise on Thursday at midday for reasons best known to hon. Members. All we ask for is two hours at the very most to discuss a matter about which the right hon. Gentleman knows as much as anybody else in the House. To say that it is quite impossible because of so-called procedure is fantastic. No wonder Parliament gets into disrepute.

Mr. Butler

People outside study our procedure more closely than we imagine. They will realise that I have suggested to the Opposition that if two hours are wanted we should try to fit them into the programme that we have announced. I think that that could be done with good will on both sides.

Mr. Gaitskell

Would not a certain degree of flexibility in the Government's attitude be appropriate when we have been away three months? I think that the right hon. Gentleman might at least have made an effort to change the time of Prorogation. No doubt it would be far more convenient for the House to consider this burning issue of rents on Thursday than it would be at some late hour on Wednesday night. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not extend his offer—and I appreciate that he has made some offer—so as to

take both possibilities into account, namely, a debate on Wednesday night or on Thursday if we can arrange for Prorogation to take place later.

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I appreciate the point of the intervention but I think that we must adhere to the arrangement for Thursday, of which so much notice has been given. We are following precedent. However, I adhere to the offer I have made that if the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends approach us we shall attempt to meet them.

Question put:

The House divided:Ayes 216, Noes 163.

Division No. 152.] AYES [4.53 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Duthie, Sir William Langford-Holt, J.
Aitken, W. T. Eden, John Leavey, J, A.
Allason, James Errington, Sir Eric Leburn, Gilmour
Arbuthnot, John Farey-Jones, F. W. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Ashton, Sir Hubert Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Atkins, Humphrey Fell, Anthony Lilley, F. J. P.
Balniel, Lord Finlay, Graeme Lindsay, Martin
Barber, Anthony Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Linstead, Sir Hugh
Barlow, Sir John Foster, John Longbottom, Charles
Barter, John Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Longden, Gilbert
Batsford, Brian Freeth, Denzil Loveys, Walter H.
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Gardner, Edward Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks) George, J. C. (Pollok) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Gibson-Watt, David McAdden, Stephen
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Glover, Sir Douglas MacArthur, Ian
Berkeley, Humphry Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth) Gough, Frederick McLaren, Martin
Bidgood, John C. Gower, Raymond MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside) McMaster, Stanley R.
Bishop, F. P. Green, Alan Macpherson, Niall (Dumfrles)
Black, Sir Cyril Gresham Cooke, R. Maddan, Martin
Bossom, Clive Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G Maginnis, John E.
Bourne-Arton, A. Gurden, Harold Maitland, Sir John
Box, Donald Hall, John (Wycombe) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Marten, Neil
Boyle, Sir Edward Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Harris, Reader (Heston) Mawby, Ray
Brooman-White, R. Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Mills, Stratton
Bullard, Denys Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Montgomery, Fergus
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Harvie Anderson, Miss Moore, Sir Thomas
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hay, John Noble, Michael
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden) Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Nugent, Sir Richard
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Orr, Capt. L. P. S
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hendry, Forbes Orr-Ewing, C. Ian
Cary, Sir Robert Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Channon, H. P. G. Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Page, Graham
Chataway, Christopher Hocking, Philip N. Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Chichester-Clark, R. Hollingworth, John Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Peel, John
Cleaver, Leonard Hopkins Alan Percival Ian
Cooke, Robert Hopkins, Alan Peyton John
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hornby, R. P. Pickthorn Sir Kenneth
Cordle, John Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia Pilkington, Capt. Richard
Corfield, F. V. Howard, Hon. G. R. (S. Ives) Pilkington, Capt Richard
Costain, A. P. Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Pitt Miss Edith
Coulson, J. M. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Powell, J. Enoch
Craddock, Sir Beresford Hughes-Young, Michael Price David (Eastleigh)
Critchley, Julian Hurd, Sir Anthony Price, David (Eastleigh)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Prior, J. M. L.
Cunningham, Knox Jackson, John Profumo, Rt. Hon. John
Curran, Charles Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Ramsden, James
Dalkeith, Earl of Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
de Ferranti, Basil Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Rees, Hugh
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Renton, David
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Kitson, Timothy Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Doughty, Charles Lagden, Godfrey Robertson, Sir David
Duncan, Sir James Lancaster, Col. C. G. Roots, William
Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Russell, Ronald Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Whitelaw, William
Scott-Hopkins, James Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Seymour, Leslie Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Shaw, M. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Simon, Sir Jocelyn Tilney, John (Wavertree) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick) Turner, Colin Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H. Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Speir, Rupert Vickers, Miss Joan Woodhouse, C. M.
Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis Woodnutt, Mark
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.) Woollam, John
Storey, Sir Samuel Wall, Patrick Worsley, Marcus
Studholme, Sir Henry Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Sumner, Donald (Orpington) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Talbot, John E. Watts, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tapsell, Peter Webster, David Mr. Prior and Mr. Sharples.
Ainsley, William Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Popplewell, Ernest
Albu, Austen Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne valley) Prentice, R. E.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hamilton, William (West Fife) Probert, Arthur
Allen, scholefield (Crewe) Hannan, William Proctor, W. T.
Awbery, Stan Hart, Mrs. Judlth Randail, Harry
Bacon, Miss Alice Hayman, F. H. Rankin, John
Beaney, Alan Healey, Denis Redhead, E. C.
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Reynolds, G. W.
Blackburn, F. Herbison, Miss Margaret Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Blyton, William Hill, J. (Midlothian) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Holt, Arthur Ross, William
Bowles, Frank Howell, Charles A. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Boyden, James Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Short, Edward
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Brockway, A. Fenner Hunter, A. E. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Skeffington, Arthur
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Small, William
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Soskice Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Callaghan, James Jones, Dan (Burnley) Spriggs, Leslie
Chapman, Donald Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Steele, Thomas
Chetwynd, George Kelley, Richard Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Cliffe, Michael Key, Rt, Hon. C. W. Stonehouse, John
Collick, Percy Ledger, Ron Stones, William
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Strachey, Rt. Hon. John
Crosland, Anthony Lipton Marcus Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Logan David Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Loughlin, Charles
Davies, Harold (Leek) Swingler, Stephen
Deer, George Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sylvester, George
Dodds, Norman MacColl, James Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Donnelly, Desmond McInnes, James Taylor, John (West Lothlan)
Driberg, Tom Mackie, John Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John McLeavy, Frank Thorpe, Jeremy
Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter McPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Tomney, Frank
Edelman, Maurice Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wade, Donald
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mallalieu, J.P W.(Huddersfield, E.) Warbey, William
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Manuel, A. C. Watkins, Tudor
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mapp, Charles Weitzman, David
Evans, Albert Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Fitch, Alan Marsh, Richard Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fletcher, Eric Mellish, R. J. White, Mrs. Eirene
Foot, Dingle Mendelson, J. J. Whitlock, William
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Millan, Bruce Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Mitchison, G. R. Wilkins, W. A.
Galpern, Sir Myer Moyle, Arthur Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Ginsburg, David Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Owen, Will Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Gourlay, Harry Paget, R. T. Wilson, Rt Hon. Harold (Huyton>
Greenwood, Anthony Parker, John (Dagenham) Witerbottom, R. E.
Grey, Charles Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.) Woof, Robert
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Pavitt, Laurence Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Peart, Frederick
Grimond, J. Pentland, Norman TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gunter, Ray Plummer, Sir Leslie Mr. Lawson and
Mr. G. H. R. Rogers.