HC Deb 11 December 1962 vol 669 cc209-10
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now make a statement about appointments to the office of Serjeant al: Arms.

As I promised the House, I have consulted the Queen on this matter. She has informed me that, on any future occasion when the office of Serjeant at Arms falls vacant, she will, before exercising her Prerogative, initiate informal discussions with you, Mr. Speaker, as she and her predecessors have done in the past.

At the same time, it will be welcome to the Queen if you, Sir, were then to take soundings in whatever manner may be convenient to enable you to inform her of any feelings there may be in the House before she exercises her Prerogative.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Prime Minister aware that although possibly this arrangement will not go as far as some hon. Members desire, nevertheless I think that the House as a whole will be grateful to him for having made the arrangement with Her Majesty?

Mrs. Castle

Would the Prime Minister approach Her Majesty and ask her whether she would graciously consent to handing over the Palace of Westminster—

Mr. Speaker

Order. In no sense does that arise out of this statement.

Mr. C. Pannell

I am sure that the House is grateful for these consultations, because they bring an ancient office more in line with modern needs. While thanking the Prime Minister for his statement, may I ask whether he will have another look at the Stokes Report, which specifically referred to this matter and suggested the setting up of a body of commissioners of the House before which these great appointments might come so that, as was the case with the last Serjeant at Arms, any new occupant of the great office comes to this place with the full confidence and not the misunderstanding of the House?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that I undertook to do more than two things. The first was to make it plain to the House, which, I think, all hon. Members accepted, that Her Majesty, in this case, as in every other case in which she has exercised her Prerogative, and following the precedent of her predecessors, has acted in strict accordance with what has always been the custom.

Secondly, in order to make this informal consultation with you, Sir, more effective from the House of Commons' point of view, she would welcome any steps that you, Sir, in consultation with leading Members of the House, may devise to make this informal counsel more effective.

That was the point that I undertook to deal with. The hon. Gentleman has raised much larger issues than the issue which arises from this particular exercise of the Prerogative.