HC Deb 02 July 1962 vol 662 cc29-33
Mr. Shinwell

I desire to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker, about which, through your private secretary, I have given you notice.

This morning I telephoned the Home Office to direct its attention to a serious disturbance which occurred in Trafalgar Square yesterday, when 3,000 people were alleged to have been present, when several people were arrested, and, I believe, some injured and, so I understand from the Press, when many police officers were also present.

I asked the Home Office whether it would accept a Private Notice Question, the intention of which was merely to elicit a statement from the Home Secretary. I discovered subsequently that it was ready to answer such a Question.

Later, I learned, after submission to your office, that, because you regarded the question as not being one of urgency, you decided not to grant permission. I wish to submit, with great respect, that this decision is somewhat unprecedented, because the matter is regarded as urgent Press comments indicate that the disturbance is a matter of urgency and it appears to me that the public requires some reassurance from the Home Secretary that these disturbances can be prevented in future. That is why I wished to put the Question.

However, you decided otherwise, and, although I recognise that I have no right to ask you to explain why you refused, the fact is that I have learned that your reason was that you did not regard the matter as one of urgency, and I submit to you that your decision requires further elucidation.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that it can have further elucidation. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I would most gladly allow that Question, and all others, if I thought it proper to do so. It is much easier and a great deal more agreeable to say "Yes" than to say "No". But I cannot unless I take the view that it is within my power. The House confers that duty on me and I cannot evade it.

On this occasion, after consideration and giving the right hon. Gentleman a chance, indirectly, to make his submissions about it, I did not think that it would be within the Standing Order. That is where the matter is.

Mr. Shinwell

I understand that it was suggested that as the Home Secretary answers Oral Questions next Thursday, a Question might be put then. But it has no doubt occurred to you, Mr. Speaker, that, because the Prime Minister answers Questions from 3.15 p.m. onwards on Thursday, if my Question comes late in the list of Questions to the Home Secretary, it may not be answered. In that event, there would be no opportunity available to hon. Members to put the Question to the Home Secretary for some time.

Mr. Speaker

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point. I am greatly obliged to him for the courteous way in which he has put this matter. I cannot help it that the duty devolves upon me.

On the fact which he has just mentioned, namely, the probability that a Question for Oral Answer to the Home Secretary on Thursday might not be reached in the ordinary way—it certainly would not be unless we did better than today—the difficulty could be overcome by the concurrence of the Home Secretary in practice which would enable the Question to be answered. That is the right way to proceed without creating a difficult precedent in this matter.

Mr. Fletcher

Further to the point of order. I also sought your leave this morning, Mr. Speaker, to put a Private Notice Question. While I would not in any way want to challenge your Ruling, nevertheless this is a subject which is causing great concern.

As the Home Secretary was prepared to make a statement had you allowed a Private Notice Question, may I ask the Leader of the House whether arrangements can be made for the Home Secretary, with the leave of the House, to make a statement on the subject tomorrow afternoon?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. fain Macleod)

Without committing my right hon. Friend, I can say that I will, of course, discuss that straight away with the Home Secretary.

Mr. Shinwell

In the event of the Home Secretary not being able to answer a Question tomorrow, either because it is unconstitutional or for some other reason, can we have an assurance that on Thursday, at any rate, an arrangement will be made so that the Home Secretary can answer the Question?

Mr. Macleod

My previous answer can cover that. We will consider both a statement tomorrow and, if that is not practicable, a Question could be answered on Thursday, by special leave, at the end of Questions.

Mr. C. Pannell

Will the Leader of the House also consider the precedents in this matter? I think that it was in 1936 that there were Questions and a long debate in the House arising from incidents in the Albert Hall and disturbances from the same quarter. Will the right hon. Gentleman also take into account the fact that the principal party about whom complaint has been made has already been found guilty of a breach of the privilege of the House?

Sir B. Janner

While this matter is being considered, will the Leader of the House ask the Minister of Works whether he would be prepared to answer a Question next Tuesday—he is late in the list of Oral Questions—dealing with a subject upon which a Question has been put to him before by myself, whether he is aware that the tenets of the National Socialists are of such a nature that they are conducive to a breach of the peace?

Now that a declaration has been made openly that they are Nazis, in those circumstances the preaching of murder, which the Nazis preached throughout, should not be allowed in any of our squares.

Mr. Speaker

We cannot wander over the merits of this topic now. The anxiety of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) about the Private Notice Question was thoroughly understandable and I am grateful for the opportunity of stating the position as it bore upon me. But we cannot go into the merits of these other things.

Sir B. Janner

Mr. Speaker, may I seek your assistance? This is also a matter for the Minister of Works. Is there any method by which we can get him or the Prime Minister to deal with this matter, which concerns two Departments, apart from others which are seriously affected?

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member cares to put down a Question, no doubt it will be considered.

Mr. S. Silverman

Mr. Speaker, I understand from what you have said that the principal reason why you did not feel able to allow my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) to put down a Private Notice Question was not any objection to the urgency or importance of it, but had regard to the probability that the matter could be dealt with at an early stage so as not to justify putting a Question, out of order as it were, on the Order Paper.

But would not that Ruling depend on there being some assurance that the matter was, in fact, to be dealt with adequately within the next day or two? As I understand the Leader of the House, he has not gone further than to say that he will consult his right hon. Friend about whether he will make a statement. This is not sufficient, because if the answer is in the negative, then we shall have lost this opportunity of putting the Question, and shall have no further opportunity of putting it before the end of this part of the Session.

Mr. Speaker

As far as I am concerned, I must try to adhere to the practice of my predecessors, because I am sure that it is right, in the interests of the House, not to give publicly my reasons for allowing or disallowing any Private Notice Question. Accordingly, I hope that there will be no inference about this.