§ Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
I beg to move,That further consideration of the Bill be adjourned.I so move in order to ascertain the intentions of the Government about the business now before us. We have this immediate Report stage, with an Amendment of great importance and great length which will need a very great deal of consideration, and there are other aspects of this Bill that we have to discuss after that. There are no fewer than five other Orders on the Paper, it is now almost half-past ten, and we want to know whether the Government intend to press on with all this business.
We cannot hurry over the very important hurdle immediately ahead of us. This is a very considerable and important Bill which affects many people and raises important principles—particularly the Amendment about the disposal of the money that is to come in. We do not think that it would be right to embark even on this at this late hour, particularly as this very day the Government have decided to send us away earlier than they should and, in order to do that, have put this enormous set of Orders of the Day before us.
I hope that someone is in a position to tell us not only about the intentions on this next Order but the general intentions of the Government. I see that the Patronage Secretary is there; he has recently created the precedent of addressing us at some length. I do not know whether there is anyone else on the Treasury Bench at the moment who can tell us the Government's general intentions, but if we had to settle down to very long proceedings we should like to know now. I think that hon. Members opposite would also like to know what lies ahead of them tonight. Therefore, I am moving this Motion in order that we can get from someone or other on the Government Front Bench some idea of what the Government propose. 1274 Indeed, I would speak a little longer if it were possible to get the Leader of the House here while I am on my feet, because I am not sure whether I agree with the precedent which the Chief Patronage Secretary set the other night when he addressed us; it tends to raise the temperature of the House.
None the less, if there is no one better than he, we would rather have him speak than no one at all, because the Minister of Transport, who is here, is not really capable of telling us the intentions of the Government after we have disposed of the Bill which is immediately before us. He could, of course, tell us whether he intends to press on with the whole of that Order, which will take a considerable time, for, as he realises, points of very great importance are raised in our proposed new Schedule, and they will have to be exhaustively canvassed and discussed—unless, of course, the Government were to accept the Schedule straight away. It would be interesting to know whether they propose to do that. If they do not, this is going to be a rather long and exhaustive, if not exhausting, procedure.
I hope that someone will answer the points that I am raising. I do not know whether the Chief Patronage Secretary would be prepared to do so. I do not consider that any other Minister now on the Front Bench is in a position to tell us what are the intentions of the Government concerning the multiplicity of matters which still have to be dealt with.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
If I may say a word or two in support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), we have on the Order Paper a new Schedule which is not only somewhat long—I think necessarily long—but which also raises a general question about Government contracts which we regard as a matter of considerable importance. It raises the question in a very peculiar case where the right hon. Gentleman has to come to the House to get authority for what he proposes to do inside a Royal Park.
This is not all that we desire to discuss. There never has been a Money Resolution in connection with this Bill. I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of 1275 Transport on Second Reading and then again in Committee what was going to happen about the disposal of the funds which he would receive in connection with this Bill, and at long last this morning, or perhaps it was yesterday, I had a written reply from the right hon. Gentleman which seems to me possibly incorrect and certainly unsatisfactory. I desire to raise, not on the Report stage but as an objection to the Third Reading of the Bill, with which we are also asked to deal tonight, this rather weighty question of the disposal of Government funds, the control of Parliament over them and the need for Money Resolutions.
We have just been considering the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill where there were Money Resolutions incorrectly drawn in the first instance, and no one has ever disputed that in that case there was a need for them. The right hon. Gentleman may or may not have discovered a method of avoiding a Money Resolution, but, if he has, I think the circumstances in which it can be used require careful examination and raise a really important point of Parliamentary control over Ministerial expenditure. I see no hope in the circumstances, however concisely I try to put these matters, of getting a short debate; nor, indeed, do I think it would be right that we should have merely a short debate on matters of this kind.
I may add that since this Bill was given a Second Reading the circumstances have changed considerably. The Minister in Committee made statements which I am not going into now, but which were quite at variance with what his intentions appeared to be on the Second Reading of the Bill. In consequence, the House as a whole has not had the opportunity of considering what the right hon. Gentleman now proposes to do.
For that reason I would suggest that in the public interest it is advisable that this matter should be properly discussed, discussed with a reasonably large attendance of Members, and discussed at an hour of the night when we shall not feel hurried, certainly at an hour when we do not have afterwards quite a number of other Measures—as appears from the Paper to be the case tonight. I hope, therefore, that the Government will say to us that they recognise the realities of the situation and that they are not going to 1276 oblige us to deal with matters of this importance at this hour of the night, with other Bills following.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). The Government would wish on this occasion—they have discussed this through the usual channels—
§ Mr. Marples
Discussions have taken place through the usual channels. The Government wish to take the Report and Third Reading of this Bill and miss Order No. 5, Patents and Designs (Renewals, Extensions and Fees) Bill [Lords], and Order No. 6, Human Tissue Bill. They thought the Human Tissue Bill could perhaps be taken on another day, and Order No. 7, Sheriffs' Pensions (Scotland) Bill, on another day, and Order No. 8, Local Authorities (Expenditure on Special Purposes) (Scotland) Bill, another day. They would like to take tonight Order No. 9, Report of the Committee on the Money Resolution for the Housing Bill. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask the House to consider tonight this Bill and that other Order of the Day in view of the statement I have made and the fact there were discussions, I think, through the usual channels. The Leader of the House at Question Time made it clear that we could expect reasonable pro-gross with these matters I have mentioned.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I am sorry, but this is coming very near to sharp practice. Earlier in the day we had a discussion with the Leader of the House. I must say we have now had half an hour for the Patronage Secretary, if he chose, to bring the Leader of the House here. Obviously, he does not choose to bring him in, which is quite interesting in view of what the Minister of Transport has just said. We had discussion earlier in the day with the Leader of the House in open House, open to everybody here, and the Leader of the House said that the intentions were to obtain the Order of the Day which has just been obtained, 1277 namely, the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill, and such other progress as it was reasonable to make; and that is all he said. The Patronage Secretary is mumbling. Would he like to speak? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] Yes, but when he speaks he does not mumble but speaks out loud.
What has happened? The Patronage Secretary has instigated the Minister of Transport, who knows nothing about these things, to say things which the Leader of the House earlier this day would not say and which the Leader of the House would not say if he were here now. There has not been discussion through the usual channels about which orders to take. The Leader of the House did not earlier this day indicate that the Government wanted Orders 2, 3, 4 and 9 and were not disposed to take Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8. This is something which the Patronage Secretary is at the moment using the Minister of Transport to propose, who, if he wishes to build a place for himself—
§ Mr. Brown
—may, perhaps, resist. There is no particular future in that for Edgar Bergen's dummy—which is what he is being at this moment. This is something which the Patronage Secretary has been putting into the ear of the Minister of Transport. That is why the Leader of the House is not being brought in now, because he made it plain that we would take the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill and then see where we were.
I hope the Minister of Transport firmly understands that what he has just said was not so. There has been no discussion between the usual channels about the Orders to be taken. We see no reason why we should embark on this Order. The Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill is an Order which, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, raises considerable issues. It raises, as is quite likely with the right hon. Gentleman, some novel issues. It must be extremely difficult for the right hon. Gentleman both to learn that and to have continual mumbling from the Patronage Secretary in his ear. One of us should give way to the other. It would be better if the Patronage Secre- 1278 tary made a speech direct from his own mouth to the microphone instead of via the ear of the Minister of Transport, who must be finding it awfully difficult.
The Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill raises some novel issues. I gather that one of the novel issues is the absence of a Money Resolution. One of the novel issues is the arrangements for dealing with the finances involved. I hope that the departure of the Patronage Secretary means that he is going to find the Leader of the House, because it must be apparent even to him that what we are lacking is the presence of the Leader of the House.
It seems to us on this side that we must have a lead from a source much higher than the Minister of Transport. I am making no reflection on the right hon. Gentleman's competence at his own job, althought at other moments there is plenty to be said about that. His competence to lead the House from the position that he now occupies is a little in doubt. What we need is a lead from a source higher than the Minister of Transport about the intentions of the Government They have nothing to grumble about. We took until half-past six today to debate whether we should adjourn for the Easter Recess, a Motion the discussion of which by tradition, time honoured, is something that the House jealously guards.
At half-past six, we facilitated, although we were under no obligation to do so, the Government in getting their business. They did not have to closure the debate. They got the end of that debate at half-past six in orderly fashion with us on these benches ending it with many of my hon. Friends still rising. With all the intervening Divisions, that meant that we did not get on to the White Fishing and Herring Industries Bill until half-past seven. Now, the Government have got that Bill between half-past seven and half-past ten. They have nothing to grumble about. Had we been setting out to obstruct, had we even been setting out to help with constructive speeches, they would have been on it a long time yet. But there was none of that.
The Government got that Bill by half-past ten. They have nothing to grumble about. The sensible thing for the Government now to do, especially as 1279 the night shift is on down there below the Gangway on the Government side, which means that we will get no intelligent discussion from below the Gangway on the Government side, is surely to adjourn and let us come back to these Bills in due course when the House is in good form and we are in the full time of day.
I am an ex-Minister of Works. The present Minister of Works is not here at a time when we are going to make a major intrusion into one of the Royal Parks which I regarded very jealously when I was Minister of Works and which it is the present Minister's job to regard very jealously today. The present Minister of Transport is to be permitted to cut a great swathe into a great national park which is the pride not only of Londoners but of the world. Everybody goes to Hyde Park.
People judge London by Hyde Park. [Laughter.] There is a great difference between hon. Members opposite and myself. The hour of the day at which they know Hyde Park and the business by which they know Hyde Park is quite different from mine. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Because of the hour of the day at which I know Hyde Park and the purposes for which I know Hyde Park it is a matter of great pride to me, but hon. and right hon. Members opposite have to think twice about this because there have been some rather peculiar cases. They did not involve anybody on this side of the House. [Interruption.] I did not start this. It was started on that side of the House. The Minister of Works ought to be here to defend the park and to speak, if need be, for the park and for its meaning to Londoners, but he is not here.
I repeat that there are very great purposes in the Bill. It really involves a considerable business. If there are any grounds for moving the adjournment of the House they are these two points—that we have here neither the Leader of the House with whom this matter had been discussed earlier today, nor the Minister of Works who has charge of the park which is to be interfered with by the Bill. [Interruption.] Does the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) wish to raise a point of order?
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
All I was saying was that we have had that four times and it is tedious repetition.
§ Mr. Brown
There is nothing tedious about what I am saying. It is a point that has to be made again and again from this side of the House because it is not made from the opposite side.
We are being badly treated. We have the Minister of Transport offering us an explanation which in the patent knowledge of hon. Members who were here earlier is not true. Neither of the Ministers who could help us in this matter is present. We lack the one Minister who is appointed and is paid to care for our interests. I hope and trust that the House will not proceed with discussions of the Bill in the light of the flippant, frivolous and quite contemptuous way in which the Government Front Bench is treating us. My right hon. Friend has sought to move his Motion, and I hope that my hon. Friends will support him both in their words and, if need be, with their votes. It would be quite improper to proceed with the discussion of the Bill in the light of the existing situation on the Government Front Bench and the way in which they are treating us.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I hope that we shall hear something a little more accommodating from the Government soon. I can well understand why the Leader of the House is not here. I presume that he has been over-ruled in this matter by the Patronage Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the House has more experience of Parliamentary matters, and I cannot imagine that he would wish to have this sort of foolishness. I should have thought that the Government would learn sense at some time. They have had a roughish Session, but just when things have seemed to be quietening down and we were prepared to co-operate with them, giving them the White Fish Bill at a reasonable hour, they proceed to act in this way, on the very day on which they have insisted— 1281 against the will and the vote of the Opposition—in adjourning the House for a number of days during which many Motions, considered by hon. Members on both sides to be of considerable importance, could have been discussed. In spite of insisting on adjourning the House they now ask us to consider a Bill of this importance at this time of night.
The Bill involves a very formidable breach of a very ancient and honoured tradition. There is no older possession of the people of this country than Hyde Park, which was taken into the hands of the Crown on behalf of the people by King Edward the Confessor during the days when it was Abbey land, and since then it has been the uninterrupted property of the people. Only once has the freedom of that park to Londoners been threatened, and that was in the days of Cromwell the Usurper—
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member, but he and the House will appreciate my difficulties. If we get down to a discussion of the Bill at some stage all these matters will be very relevant and interesting, but I feel myself limited by the terms of the Motion now before the House, and Cromwellian history does not easily fit the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. Paget
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit that this is correct: we are now approaching 11 o'clock. We have had a full and busy day, and the Government are proposing that we now go on to consider this Measure. My argument is that this is not the sort of triviality which can be got through without discussion at a late hour.
This is a highly important matter involving principles which the House should consider when it is fresh. The only point which I was making about the Cromwellian history of Hyde Park was simply that this was the only occasion upon which it passed out of the free use of the people, and it was then sought by a sordid fellow who bought it to charge us sixpence for a carriage—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With due respect to him, I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is persisting on a line which I have indicated to him I do not think appropriate. I can 1282 understand discussions on principle on Second Reading of the Bill, but the Question now is whether we should defer, or not defer, consideration of the Bill, not amended in Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Paget
I understand that there are Amendments on the Order Paper to be considered on Report and a Schedule, and I understand that the general question of that Schedule is whether this shall be an enterprise for profit. In that respect I was indicating the views expressed by respectable antiquity of the sordid nature of using this ancient domain of London for private profit. That is the point which I am making, but I will now depart from it and return to the issue before us, which is whether we should proceed on this important matter at this hour.
We are going away for a holiday which apparently the Government think will be time well spent. In those circumstances, what business have they to ask us to deal with this matter tonight? Do they think that they will be successful? What sort of progress will they make when they act in this way, without co-operation and in breach of the understanding given by the Leader of the House? The Leader of the House said, "We want the White Fish Bill, and it is urgent that we get it. When we have done that we will see how we are getting on." We allow him to have that Bill at a reasonable time, we co-operate and help, but he is not here to look at the situation and to implement the implications of his invitation to us. Because we have given him that Bill at a reasonable hour the Government proceed to flout our wishes and to try to force something further upon us.
That sort of conduct does not invite co-operation from any self-respecting Opposition. It is asking for trouble, and if the right hon. Gentleman insists he will get trouble and will still be having trouble at breakfast time; but he will get no progress.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
As I see it, the Leader of the House indicated this afternoon that he would consider the situation and see what progress had been made. One wants to be reasonable about this. If we had started the debate on the Hyde 1283 Park (Underground Parking) Bill at 10.30 and gone on till 11.45 some progress would have been made; but as it is, with the speeches that we have had from the other side of the House, no progress has been made.
I would not have risen except to say that I was appalled at the inference to be drawn from what was said by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who is not at the moment in his place. I thought it was a completely unnecessary remark to make over something which was frivolous and not meant at all. I hope that on reflection he will regret having said it.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Perhaps I might point out that my right hon. Friend is talking with the Patronage Secretary. Otherwise he would be here to listen to the hon. Member.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I appreciate that. I could not warn the right hon. Gentleman that I was going to refer to the remark that he made.
Listening to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite one would think that they had done us a favour in making progress with the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill. But when I cast my mind back a week or so to what was a billiant performance by the hon. Member for Manchester. Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) in talking about converting the "Queen Mary" into a fish carrier, I begin to wonder whether the Opposition have been so kind in facilitating this business.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Had my hon. Friend not spoken for two and a half hours that night the Government would never have discovered the mistake they had made in the Financial Resolution.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Member for Cheetham was not the only one who spoke that night. The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) even broke the record.
Speaking as a private Member from this side of the House, I suggest that we could make some progress. I understand the point of view put forward. If hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have not been too easy in recent months, want to sit up all night, let us sit up all night and get on with it.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that we might be able to make progress if the Leader of the House were here and that we must protest at his continued absenteeism. The right hon. Gentleman has a responsibility to be here, and a particular responsibility on occasions such as this. What has happened was not unexpected. It might have been assumed that this matter would be raised, and yet the House is without the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
One knows that the Leader of the House has other responsibilities. I do not know what my right hon. Friend is doing, but I am perfectly sure that he can fully justify his absence at the moment. The right hon. Member for Belper complained about the Minister of Transport being the only Minister here. After all, we have a Cabinet Minister on the Front Bench to answer this matter, and that should be adequate.
§ Mr. Willis
It is true that we have the Minister of Transport on the Government Front Bench, but, unfortunately, he is not the expert on proceedings in the House, neither is he an expert on the degree to which the Government want to continue the business tonight in order to get their programme through. The person who knows all about that is the Leader of the House, and, failing his presence, we have to depend upon the Patronage Secretary. Neither is in his place, and so I assume that something must be going on and we may get some information about it later on.
I put it to the Government that the Opposition have been most co-operative today on the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill. A number of my hon. Friends were very anxious to speak on the Bill, particularly on the important implications for Scotland. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) was not present at the time and so he does not realise the importance of the discussions which were going on—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is very interesting, but I myself had the misfortune to miss the discussions. However, I have difficulty in relating them to the question of whether or no further consideration of the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill should be adjourned.
§ Mr. Willis
I am very grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I will try very quickly to relate what I have to say to the Question before the House.
I was trying to point out that the Opposition had been very co-operative, with the result that we had finished the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill by 10.15 or 10.30 p.m., a very respectable hour at which to close the business. Yet at this hour at night we are asked to consider a very lengthy and involved Schedule to a new Bill which introduces new principles and which ought to be discussed fairly thoroughly. Although as a Scottish Member I am not so much concerned with Hyde Park, I have no doubt that what is done in the Bill will become the pattern for what will be done in other Royal Parks in order to help solve the traffic problem. It may well be done in Holyrood Park at Edinburgh, or somewhere else. Therefore before we agree to this innovation, or settle the details, obviously this is a matter to which the House should give fairly close attention. In the proposals that the Government are anxious that we should consider, we are laying down something which is entirely new. This House ought to do that in a sober frame of mind and be prepared to devote time to it at a reasonable hour of the day, not in the middle of the night. What is being done now will be a pattern for the future and may affect not only Hyde Park, but parks in other parts of the country.
In the interests of achieving the best legislation possible, I should have thought that the Government would be prepared to postpone the consideration of this Bill until another day. I cannot see that the traffic problem in London will be affected if there is a delay in the consideration of this Bill, even for another twelve or fourteen days. Goodness knows, the traffic in London has been chaotic enough for years and I cannot see what difference will be made by a delay of fourteen days. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to get on with the scheme as quickly as possible, but surely that does not mean that we should consider this Measure in the middle of the night. I ask the Government once again to think seriously before asking the House to spend what may be a considerable amount of time on this Bill tonight.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
I should hesitate to intervene in such a debate as this were it not for the fact that I am extremely anxious about two things. The first is the honour of the Minister of Transport and the second is the need to make progress with this Bill. The Minister has said that an arrangement was made, to put it shortly, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has said—putting it equally shortly—that an arrangement was not made. So far as my right hon. Friend was allowed within the limits of Parliamentary usage he was bound to be suggesting that the Minister of Transport was mistaken in what he was saying on a point on which one cannot in the normal way make absolutely clear in the Chamber.
Of course, it is understood that the Minister was merely passing on information which had been whispered into his ear, but I think that we ought to have this point cleared up. The only person who can clear it up is the Leader of the House. He is the only person who can say with authority whether or not my right hon. Friend was justified in saying what he has said. It is a very unsatisfactory situation when two right hon. Gentlemen find themselves compelled to disagree about a matter of honour of that kind. If such an arrangement had been made, it would be a considerable surprise to us on this side of the House, because none of us anticipated or wanted such an arrangement. We wanted to get on with the discussion on this Bill.
I know full well that the Minister of Transport has "gone down-hill" very fast indeed—but only when he has a pair of skis beneath him. In normal matters I am sure that his integrity is as great as ever it was and he would not wish to make any statement which he was not absolutely sure was truthful and not misleading.
We cannot possibly let this Motion go until we have been satisfied whether or not an arrangement was made and whether or not anyone is challenging the accuracy and veracity of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whom none of us has ever found to mislead on an important question of this kind. Many of us feel that this is a matter which has to be thoroughly cleared up, 1287 and cleared up now. It would be most unsatisfactory if it were left open over the whole of the Easter Recess with allegations of this kind being made and not capable of being adequately refuted.
Of course, the Patronage Secretary would not wish to intervene himself. The Leader of the House when available is most courteous and anxious to demonstrate his ability to lead the House and not merely to act as a Conservative Minister. I hope that representations will be made to him to clear up this matter and get it out of the way. If one thinks of what the Leader of the House could have had in mind, it is quite inconceivable that it was that we should be going on to consider this Bill at this hour. It is inconceivable that he would make such an arrangement as has been indicated, because it was several hours before consideration of the previous Bill was started when he made the statement. It was very likely that consideration of the previous Bill would have ended two or even three hours earlier than actually happened. He would have in mind that there would be up to two or three hours for that Bill, or, alternatively, that it would finish two or three hours earlier.
Suppose that instead of consideration of that Bill finishing at half-past ten it had finished at half-past seven. Then it would be reasonable that we should get on and do as much business as possible. That, I am sure, is the desire of both sides of the House. That would be in the mind of the Leader of the House when he made the statement. It is most unlikely that he contemplated that discussion on the question of the Easter Recess would go on for so long and that consideration of the other Bill would start at half-past seven. Not only is it clear that there is an unfortunate disagreement between two right hon. Gentlemen as to what in fact was said—and this touches on the honour of the House—but it is perfectly clear that it is inconceivable that the Leader of the House could have had in mind what presumably the Patronage Secretary put into the mouth of the Minister of Transport as being what he had in mind. We should have that cleared up, and cleared up as quickly as possible.
1288 I, as usual, am anxious to get on to discussion. We all have other things to do in whatever capacity we carry on. I am anxious to get on to discussion, but I take a very practical view of these things. I regard as the important time not the time we start to consider a Bill but the time when we finish considering it. I direct my attention always to the best method of completing consideration of a Bill. The Bill we have before us, the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill, is a Bill, which making an assumption one makes with temerity—that the Amendment dealing with the new Schedule is bound to be in order and will be called—will involve lengthy, close and highly technical consideration.
A considerable matter of principle is involved which has already been indicated, and I do not propose to refer to the matter again, because that would be wasting the time of the House. But what has, perhaps, not been made sufficiently clear is that the proposed new Schedule is one dealing with a highly technical matter. It covers 71 lines, each one involving words which have to be carefully considered, because it is setting a precedent which would be affected very much by the difference of opinion prevailing on each side of the House and the different approach of each side of the House to it.
It is not going to be possible for this matter to be considered clearly and quickly unless it is considered at the time of day when we are all fresh and able to consider it. It is as simple as that. Some of us, perhaps, can go on till late in the night. I am sure that the Minister with his professional background will understand these things very well, but I am sure that he would not wish to be the sole representative of his party present. He would naturally wish to be helped by the advice of and the contributions made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, realising as he must that this is setting a very important precedent. Therefore, I am sure he would be the last person to wish to deny the help and consideration which hon. and right hon. Members could bring to the Bill, presuming as I do that the Schedule is going to be called and that it is going to be fully discussed.
As I say, the Schedule is a highly technical one and one which could not 1289 be understood by hon. Members unless it were carefully and fully explained in considerable detail. Who is to do that other than my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)? Everybody understands that my hon. and learned Friend would be the last person to complain about the amount of work or the burden of work that he has to carry. He has never been known to utter a peek about the amount of work he is called upon to undertake and the help which he gives to hon. Members on both sides. [HON. MEMBERS: "Both sides?"] Yes, because when constructive arguments are put forward they are of benefit to both sides.
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will not be embarrassed if I say that it is within my knowledge that he has had a most extraordinarily tiring and busy day. Since half-past ten this morning he has been here, speaking in the debate on the Trustee Investments Bill in Committee upstairs and dealing with most highly technical matters with such force of argument and such clarity of exposition as to compel some hon. Members of the party opposite in Committee to refrain from voting for their own Minister and their own Bill. Such was the value of the contribution of my hon. and learned Friend. But, after all, he is only human. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh no."] I thought that I had all the House with me in saying that, but apparently I have not.
My hon. and learned Friend is a very human being, always ready to listen to pleas from this side, always willing to take on additional burdens and always ready to put down Amendments. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] He is an indefatigable worker for the good of the House. It would not be right, would it, just because—I was going to say a horse, but that would be entirely inappropriate—my hon. and learned Friend is so willing to go on in order to enable the House to understand fully the technical and detailed Schedule to saddle this burden on him knowing that he has not only been fully occupied for days and weeks but that he has been on his feet since half-past ten this morning. He was engaged, as I have said, for the whole morning in helping on that most technical Measure, the Trustee Investments Bill. It would not be right to call upon him to make a further contribution— 1290 however helpful it might be to hon. Members—at this time.
I hope, therefore, that the Government will realise that we are absolutely correct in saying that the best way of getting a Bill of this kind—a technical Measure like this; and I refer in particular to the Schedule—discussed and disposed of—discussed, understood and disposed of—is to approach it when one is capable of understanding all the nuances and technical details involved.
The right hon. Gentleman may be able to do this kind of thing with a tired mind, but the rest of us, and those with, perhaps, professional training in these matters, need a fresh mind, and it is our duty to our constituents to approach the subject with a fresh mind. Our constituents sent us here, not to argue in a fuzzy way at one o'clock or two o'clock in the morning but to bring clarity and light into the discussion and so enable the best possible legislation to get on the Statute Book.
I have no doubt that the proposed Schedule is drawn in a most satisfactory, clear and intelligible manner, but it may be the Government have different ideas about it. They may want to improve the drafting or suggest variations, or do one or either of those or other things about it. They will naturally wish to have our arguments put to them clearly, will wish to consider them and, perhaps, arrange for a suitable time to put down Amendments to deal with it—because they have opportunities to put down Amendments when they require to do so.
It is impossible to say with certainty that the proposed Schedule will be accepted in precisely its present form, but one can say that if we start to discuss the subject at a normal hour, when we are fresh and have not had to deal with the problems that many of us have had to deal with today—and particularly when my hon. and learned Friend has not had to concentrate for the last thirteen hours on matters of great technical complexity—it is quite clear that we would be far more likely to come to a speedy, satisfactory and helpful conclusion than if we start the consideration now.
I myself am at the service of the Minister. I will do whatever he wants to do. If he wants to go on all through the night, I am perfectly happy to stay here 1291 and listen to his arguments. I do not think that that is the quickest way of doing business, but I am most anxious to be available and to listen to him whenever opportunity offers. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to listen to him all through the night, but, if he wishes to do that, if we are to start on the consideration of this Bill now, it is inconceivable that the proposed Schedule could be satisfactorily disposed of under three, four or five hours.
I have no idea to what extent my hon. Friends would be able to understand it and satisfy their constituents that they had voted in the right way. Nobody will take the responsibility of voting on a complicated matter like this unless they do understand it. We all face our constituents regularly. With Easter approaching, no doubt many of us will be meeting them in the next 48 hours, and it is natural that we should want to be able to satisfy them—
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It is now twenty-five minutes past eleven. If the hon. Member, who is making a very good speech, continues very much longer the Scottish Members will miss their trains to Scotland.
§ Mr. Diamond
As I am on my feet, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, perhaps I may presume to answer on behalf of my Scottish friends by saying that whether they miss their trains or not is a matter of no consideration to them. They are anxious, as they always are, to give matters of this nature their fullest consideration. If one is tempted to draw categories, may I, as a non-Scot, pay my tribute to the Scottish hon. Members who, as a class, are always ready to pay the closest attention to the business on hand.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
My hon. Friend has to some extent taken the complimentary words to the Scottish Members out of the mouths of the Scottish Members—I say that in all modesty. In fact, I am sure that he will be assured that he is, apart from the compliments altogether, speaking for the Scottish Members, who are in a very high proportion at this moment and not unwilling 1292 to stay up all night, but that we think it unreasonable to keep our Welsh and English colleagues here as well.
§ Mr. Diamond
It is clear that there are many further important arguments to be adduced on this Motion, and it would be wrong of me to delay my hon. Friends who wish to make their points. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) reminds me that he has completely misunderstood the approach of hon. Members on this side of the House to these matters. He has suggested that we did not co-operate to the fullest possible extent in discussing the previous Measure in the shortest possible time. But let him consider my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), for example, A week or so ago my hon. Friend made not a lengthy speech but a speech which might be described as not being short.
§ Mr. Diamond
An intervention of adequate proportions. It covered something like 2¾ hours. My hon. Friend also intervened on the previous Measure, and occupied minutes—seconds almost. He used the greatest possible self-discipline. He was anxious that the matter should be proceeded with as quickly as possible. He was anxious that the Government supporters should be allowed to go home as soon as possible and that, whatever else might happen, this matter should not be discussed at a time of night when hon. Members were not fresh and ready to cope with all the difficulties. Because of these anxieties he disciplined himself and spoke for seconds only, demonstrating that his consideration for hon. Members was far greater than his desire to express himself adequately on the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think that the paper object that the hon. Member is holding is a lethal weapon.
§ Mr. Diamond
I am glad to see that the Leader of the House has now entered the Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, 1293 hear."] I thank him for his courtesy. I am sure that he is anxious to help the House in clearing up a point which affects the Minister of Transport. I am sure that he is anxious also to see, as I am, that the Bill shall be discussed in the most effective way and that we shall reach the end of the discussion in the shortest possible time by starting it at a time when we are all fresh in mind and able to deal with it expeditiously and properly. In the circumstances, I am the last to wish to detain the Leader of the House.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
It is all very well saying "Welcome" to me. I spend the greater part of my waking life in the House. It just happened that I had an engagement the nature of which I have explained to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and which I could not miss.
I should now like to intervene in this debate. What has happened is that I made some statements earlier on about the nature of the business which we were likely to achieve tonight. I indicated that we were not expecting to go very low down the batting order, because we have put a great many Orders on the Order Paper. I had expected—and I think I had good reasons for so doing—that we could go a little lower than the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill. I understand on the best authority from the right hon. Gentleman that that was a misunderstanding and that that had not been understood by the Opposition. That is what I understand to be the case.
We on our side were quite sure that we would get this next Order, the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill, which it is rather important to get because the work has to be proceeded with, and we are such rapid workers that we must keep our legislation in line with the physical activities which we undertake at Hyde Park. It is, therefore, important that the work of the contractors should be equalled by the work of the legislators, and we must not get behind.
It appears to me from information that I have received, which is always of the best quality, that if we were to press this matter too much tonight we 1294 might not make very great progress. In the circumstances, I think the best thing to do is to acknowledge that there has been a misunderstanding and that we should take this Order on another occasion when I do not think it will be regarded as unduly controversial. The new arrangements at Hyde Park are beneficial not only to London's population but to mankind as a whole, and I think therefore that we must not hold them up. Therefore, I hope that if we do take this at an hour of the day which is more suitable we may have the co-operation of the Opposition. In the circumstances, I hope that we shall agree that we shall not proceed further tonight with the business but that when we do take it again at a reasonable hour of the day it will be proceeded with without undue delay. I think that is the best solution because this arises out of a genuine misunderstanding.
§ Mr. G. Brown
There are some things I should like to say before we ask leave to withdraw the Motion. We are very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for coming down to the House, I am sure at some considerable inconvenience and difficulty. Although, as he himself indicated, it is always part of the business here that one demands to know where the Leader of the House is if he is not here and welcomes him when he arrives, we of course all understand that he has duties other than being available to us when we want him. I hope there will be no suspicion anywhere in the House that we do not regard him as being very responsive to the calls of the House when he needs to be here, and I make no complaint at all of the fact that he was away somewhere else.
There is something he said which I should like to clear up, and that was his frequent reference to a misunderstanding. It is, of course, not the business of the Opposition to facilitate the business of the Government, especially at a moment when the Government have chosen to challenge the Opposition on areas of controversy which we feel very strongly about indeed. The use of the word "misunderstanding" might in itself give rise to misunderstanding.
1295 However, it is obvious that certain of the Orders of the Day will require a degree of discussion, and we are all of us, with our greater or lesser experience in the House, capable of assessing roughly what that is going to mean in terms of Parliamentary time. We on this side of the House feel that we had done all that was required of the Opposition today, not only in seeing to it that discussion on the Motion about the Easter Adjournment did not go on beyond a certain time, but that the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill was obtained by the Government by a reasonable time. Any idea that we had to facilitate further business of the Government tonight really was out of the question. However, we do not need to make a song and dance about it.
I am very willing on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends to withdraw—[Interruption.] I have much less experience of acting as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition than has the right hon. Gentleman as acting as Leader of the House. He gets a lot of advice. I must be allowed a modicum of it. I am not very clear whether I am supposed to withdraw the Motion or not.
§ Mr. Diamond
On a point of order. Was not the Leader of the House misleading the House when he suggested that my right hon. Friend should withdraw the Motion? Would not the proper procedure be for my right hon. Friend to press the Motion and thereby achieve what the Leader of the House in fact desires?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman was not misleading the House. It is a question of what step the House wishes to take.
§ Mr. Brown
Having now received a good deal of advice, I think I am now clear what it is I have to do. What I 1296 want to get quite clear is that in some way we shall shortly reach the desired end, which is that the Motion which we have moved will not be pressed. I understand that after that the Government will move a Motion which will achieve the same result, namely, that no more business will be taken tonight.
I only want to make it perfectly plain that we shall of course discuss the Bill, as we shall discuss every other item of business which the Government bring forward, with as much attention to detail and to the public interest as the public interest requires. We cannot undertake to do less; we cannot undertake to let business go through with less discussion than that; and, of course, we shall not give any business any more attention than that, which is the course we have followed. Having said that, I leave my right hon. Friend who moved the Motion to advise the House on what he thinks the House ought to do with the Motion.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
In view of what the Leader of the House said, and on the understanding that if there was any misunderstanding it was misunderstanding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and not on our part—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I will repeat it. On the understanding that if there was any misunderstanding it was misunderstanding on the part of the Government, not On our side—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Once more I will say it again. On the understanding that if there was a misunderstanding it was on the part of the Government and not on our part, and because this will enable us to discuss the Bill at a time of day when it can be properly reported and our constituents can understand what we are doing, I hope that my hon. Friends will agree to the course that has been suggested.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Further consideration adjourned.