HC Deb 12 December 1967 vol 756 cc292-332

7.14 p.m.

Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)

I beg to move,

That, during the remainder of the present Session,

(1) a motion may be made after ten of the clock by a Minister of the Crown, That the proceedings of this day's sitting be suspended, and the question thereon shall be decided without amendment or debate; and if the question be agreed to in the House, a motion may immediately thereafter be made, That this House do now adjourn, and, at the conclusion of the debate on that motion and in no case later than half an hour after the motion has been made, the motion shall lapse and Mr. Speaker shall suspend the sitting till ten of the clock on the following morning, or, if it be after midnight, till ten of the clock in the morning of the same day;

(2) if the question on a motion made likewise in a Committee of the Whole House, That the proceedings of the Committee be suspended, be so decided in the affirmative, the Chairman shall leave the chair and make a report to that effect, whereupon Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the question, That the proceedings of this day's sitting be suspended, and the House shall proceed thereon in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (1) of this Order, and, if the question be agreed to, a motion for the adjournment of the House may be made and the sitting shall afterwards be suspended as aforesaid; but, if that question be negatived, the House shall immediately again resolve itself into the Committee;

(3) on the resumption of the sitting the House shall forthwith resume the suspended proceedings and may afterwards proceed with the remaining business of the sitting which has been suspended: Provided that

  1. (a) on a Motion being made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House do now adjourn, Mr. Speaker shall put the question thereon forthwith; or
  2. (b) on the conclusion of the business Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without putting any question; or
  3. (c) if the business has not been concluded before two of the clock Mr. Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings at that hour, or, if the House be in committee, the chairman shall leave the chair and report progress and ask leave to sit again, and Mr. Speaker shall thereafter adjourn the House without putting any question.

This Motion is about the suspension of a sitting after 10 p.m. It is true that in the changes that we made in our procedure in our previous debate we have, as a by-product, substantially reduced the possibilities of unwanted late-night sittings. However, we are now specifically putting forward plans for replacing the morning sitting experiment with changes designed to achieve the same aim by different means.

In moving the Motion, I will not go into any great details, because I think that the House found it convenient on the last occasion to have an almost formal opening, and for me then to listen to the debate and reply to it, rather than repeat what the House already knows very well, which is how the draft proposed Standing Order is to work.

One great difference from the regular morning sittings which we had last Session is that Divisions can take place. We are merely having a suspended late sitting. The sitting will continue from 10 a.m. next day as though it was part of the previous day's work. It simply means that the previous day's work is extended, with the interruption of the night. It will be a genuine substitution for a late sitting. In that respect, it differs from the experiment which we carried out last Session.

I conclude with those few words, with the understanding that, if necessary, I will ask the leave of the House to reply to the debate.

7.20 p.m.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)

I do not think much of this proposal. I shall vote against it, and advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to do the same. It is an attempt to save face after the ridiculous experiment which, at the time, the right hon. Gentleman called a reform. I am referring to the experiment of the Monday and Wednesday morning sittings.

I have carefully read again the right hon. Gentleman's speech of 14th November, which I rather expected him to repeat today. It is perhaps as well that I read it carefullly beforehand, because he has not said very much today. He said: … I could not repeat the ordeal to which whole-time Government back benchers and House officials were subjected last July. Government back benchers were not conspicuous by their attendance during those morning sittings. The sittings were a grave inconvenience to you, Mr. Speaker, to the Clerks of the House, to officials, to the Press, to the police, and to everyone concerned with the affairs of this House, but not particularly to whole-time Government back benchers.

In his speech, the right hon. Gentleman considered three possibilities with which he said he was faced. He said: The first was to accept the rejection of the morning sitting experiment and simply revert to previous practice leaving the whole-time Member as badly off as before and the House conducted for the convenience of the part-time Member. Who is the part-time Member?

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)


Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

They are the main ones.

A solid block of 100 of them are the part-time Members. It is right that they should be part-time Members, because they have to try to run their Departments, and one reason why we spoke against the morning sittings experiment was that we thought it would make it difficult for Ministers to exercise any control over their Departments if they had to hang about here during the morning. They must not only control their Departments, but hold inter-Ministerial meetings, and so on in the morning. However, the right hon. Gentleman rejected that possibility and he was right to do so but his reason was singularly unconvincing.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say: The second possibility was to follow the course pressed on me by a number of my hon. Friends of rolling back the whole business of the House so as to conform with normal office hours. The right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "rolling back" in a sort of Alice in Wonderland way, because he meant the contrary. He meant rolling forward, because he meant rolling forward Question Time to ten o'clock or half-past ten in the morning, and following that with the debate of the day. I think that that is rolling forward, not rolling back. He went on to say: But the more I reflected on it the more it seemed to contain one central defect for anyone who cares about debates on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Crossman

I meant rolling back. I meant that instead of starting at 2.30 we should start five hours earlier, at 10.30. That is backwards. A watch is wound backwards from 2.30 to 10.30.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

That is a splendid semantic argument. I started it, but I think that if one begins earlier, one rolls a thing forwards, not backwards. In the light of the things done by the Government I understand the right hon. Gentleman taking a contrary view, and I shall, therefore, not pursue the point any further.

The right hon. Gentleman continued: If we roll all the business back so as to have Question Time from 10.30 to 11.30 and the big debate running from 11.30 to 6, with exempted business starting after the 6.30 Adjournment, then it follows that Standing Committees cannot meet in the morning—that is during Question Time and the two main speeches. In that case one must run them simultaneously with the main debate on the Floor of the House in the afternoon. One can do that to one or two Committees, with a great deal of protest on Thursday afternoons, but I just cannot envisage 10 or 12 Standing Committees suddenly suspending business so that Members can vote in a Division on the Floor. One cannot roll back the business in that way. It is a reductio ad absurdum." I hope, therefore, that we have now finally disposed of that suggestion of rolling back or rolling forward the business of the day so as to start our normal day's work at 10.30. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has disposed of that. I know that some of his hon. Friends want it, but he said that it was reductio ad absurdum, and with that part of his speech I agree.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

What my right hon. and learned Friend has quoted from the right hon. Gentleman's speech of 14th November is a complete argument against the Finance Bill being considered upstairs when the House is here and a debate is going on.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

My hon. Friend is right. We tried to point this out during the debate on this subject.

Having disposed of the business of rolling backwards or rolling forward forever, we come to the right hon. Gentleman's third alternative, that it was part of a combined operation. First, the Committee stage of the Finance Bill goes upstairs. That will mean four all-night sittings on the Floor of the House for the Recommittal and Report stages. He dealt next with the debates on affirmative Orders; he followed that by talking about Counts; both of these we debate later this evening; and then we come to this Motion, the fourth part of the combined operation.

The right hon. Gentleman said that there were to be ad hoc sittings of this kind, but they were not to be frequent, and added: Indeed the test of the Standing Order will not be the frequency with which it is employed but its efficacy as a deterrent, as a means of reducing the number of occasions when hardworking whole-time Members are kept hanging around the Palace of Westminster by a handful of Members, some of them amateurs, inspired by that unique combination of postprandial high spirits and moral indignaton which, late at night, can keep a debate going long after the topic is exhausted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1967; Vol. 754, c. 254–6.] This was a magnificent purple passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but it did not lead to the conclusion which he drew, because instead of this being a deterrent, it will be an encouragement. It will be a temptation to which I fear I may yield from time to time. If a Minister whom one dislikes comes along and talks away, one will enter into the debate whether the topic is exhausted or not, and force the Minister to use the deterrent. What will be the use of it if he will not use it? He will have to resume the debate and be here at 10 a.m., with perhaps 100 of his colleagues if he wants a Closure, or if he wants to win a Division.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

At least it will be a pleasure to see some of those knight-errants back here at 10 o'clock in the morning, those whom we normally never see here at that hour.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman was ever on the Floor of the House to see the knight-errants. The beauty of this is that the same knight-errant need not come back the next morning. He will get the Standing Order invoked. He will prolong the debate until an infuriated Chief Whip has to invoke it. The following morning, two or three other hon. Members will come along and continue the battle. This is a ridiculous suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. The Monday and Wednesday morning sittings experiment was ridiculous. We said so, and we were proved right, and this proposal is as ridiculous.

Let us just stop to think of the inconvenience which will be caused when, without notice, at midnight the Leader of the House, or the Chief Whip, decides to put the Standing Order into force. What about you, Mr. Speaker? What about the Clerks and the police? What about arrangements which have been made to view the Palace the following morning? There cannot possibly be a more inconvenient way of doing a thing than, quite suddenly after midnight, to have a statement saying that the House will meet at 10 o'clock the next day. In the interests of the House, and of the right hon. Gentleman himself, I beg him not to proceed with this Motion, because he will bitterly regret it if he does.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I am very glad to say that when this matter came up before the Select Committee on Procedure it was discussed much more rationally than has been the case with the right hon. and learned Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) tonight. He has reverted to the post of Leader of the party group opposing the Motion and had, I suppose, to find reasons for opposing it.

In the Select Committee, all those who discussed this question were quite reason able and saw this as a possible solution to a problem which no one has yet solved. The House and the country think it is ridiculous that we should sit here all night wasting time, very often because someone has taken it into his head to keep the House up all night. I have had a lot of experience of this— perhaps more than the right hon. And learned Gentleman, because he was not bound to be here sometimes. I have known someone who is not here today coming in at the tail end of a day and keeping us here with several Prayers—

Dr. Bennett

Geoffrey Bing.

Mr. Woodburn

Yes, he was one, but there was one who is still a Member of the House who made quite a name for himself.

One hon. Member opposite said that the Opposition would harry the Government of the day to death, and many people were harried to their graves by that performance. If anyone thinks that that is a dignified way for the House to behave, it is not the public. They think it is stupid that two or three Members should be able to keep 100 sitting here all night just for some fun and games.

The question in the Select Committee was how to avoid that. I tried to find several solutions and, on the Select Committee, of which the right hon. And learned Gentleman was a Member, this suggestion was considered a possibility—

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think this suggestion was considered at all. What was considered was an automatic stop at 12 o'clock every night.

Mr. Woodburn

The automatic stop was certainly suggested. The Government have not adopted such a drastic method but have left it flexible, because it was thought there might be difficulties. The automatic stop raised the problem of depriving the Opposition of the right to put pressure on the Government, which everyone thought they had a right to do.

It struck me that if the opposititon to any Government were keeping the House up all night we might deal with that by providing that all the time spent after midnight should be counted up and deducted from the Supply Days. That would have been a deterrent to the Opposition, officially at least, using up time and keeping people here all night on frivolous business. If they wanted to use their time during the night, they would have been perfectly free to do so, but they would not then be able to use it during the day.

However, one of my own colleagues suggested that this would not work, because Government Members might deliberately keep the House going for hours after midnight so as to frustrate the Opposition's right to Supply Days, and I had to admit that this was a possibility. Therefore, I withdrew that idea because it would have been wrong. It would not have punished the Opposition so much as put a weapon in the hands of Government supporters to deny the Opposition some of their Supply Day time.

I think that the Government have reached a happy solution. I am surprised at the heat opposite, because the Chief Whips on both sides thought that this was a possibility and the Committee gave it some blessing. I do not know why the right hon. and learned Member for the Wirral has accepted the responsibility of opposing it tonight, I am surprised that he has got so heated, because he has put forward no sensible alternative to getting rid of the stupidity of the House allowing one or two Members—even mischievous Members—to keep the House sitting all night for no other purpose than to have a little fun and games.

When serious business is involved, obviously the Government should avoid this method, but where it is only fun and games people should be allowed to go home and get some sleep and conduct their business properly. I am not a part-time Member and I object to being kept here by some frivolous Member who has not been here all day but has perhaps been earning a great deal of money in the courts and comes here at the end of his working day for some fun and games. No one will tolerate this, and this step by the Government towards obviating it is a great contribution.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I take a different view of this Motion from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), because I cannot distinguish it from what was in the Select Committee called the "Woodburn formula", which would have been automatic. This seems very similar. What surprises me is that when the Leader of the House appoints a Select Committee he pays so little attention to its decisions.

Whether this arrangement were automatic or at the instance of the Leader of the House is immaterial. It still has advantages and disadvantages. The first Report of the Select Committee for Session 1966–1967, paragraph 6, said: Your Committee have considered a proposal of attractive simplicity designed, to abolish all-night sittings by providing for an automatic suspension of the House at midnight, the unfinished business to be resumed the following morning. It is clear, however, that such a procedure would put great power into the hands of an Opposition … and would lead to greater rather than less uncertainty in the legislative programme. This was our considered view. Indeed, in times of acute political controversy, such a practice could be used to deny the Government of the day effective control over the House. We therefore looked at this.

The suggestion, although I was attracted by many of its features because I have a great dislike of all-night sittings, had to be rejected because it was impracticable as a Parliamentary solution. The Select Committee studied this matter for a long time, yet the Leader of the House completely rejected our advice and wishes now to adopt this solution.

I would be inclined to say, "Let him adopt it." I am certain that if he does he will give great advantages to the Opposition. The great difficulty, of course, is that this encourages the Opposition to see that on the morning after very little progress is made. There are only four hours in the morning, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for discussion. The Motion provides that the sitting would be automatically adjourned at 2 o'clock, whereas the old Standing Order provided that if the discussion went up to 2.30 the next day's sitting was wiped out.

It is an advantage in the interests of the Government that this will be able to go on for only four hours, but my experience of the House tells me that this will be a great weakness and that the Government will tend to get through less business during the four hours of the morning than they would have achieved in the eight hours of the night.

If the Leader of the House persists in this, he will be dislocating his Government's programme even more than some of his other measures which have been proved to have failed—

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

Is the right hon. Gentleman considering the case of Committee stages being taken on the Floor of the House? In that event, of course, the Government could introduce a timetable and it would not be possible for the Opposition of the day to continue the discussion fractiously between ten o'clock and two o'clock, thus upsetting business.

Mr. Turton

That is a reasonable point, and I am sure that the Leader of the House will take the hint from the Liberal Party. However, it would mean having a Guillotine Motion and presumably—unless we were to alter another Standing Order—prescribing the hours of the morning to be used, the time for Divisions and the Leader of the House moving a Motion for the use of that Standing Order. The complexities involved in that are, I suggest, too great for even the Leader of the House to adopt.

We must look at this whole matter again. I see the attraction of trying to do away with all-night sittings. If we can devise some way of arranging for voluntary timetables, if necessary by means of a deterrent, then that would be to the advantage of all hon. Members. However, as drafted, this proposal, attractive though it is, must be rejected, as it was unanimously rejected by the Select Committee.

Mr. Woodburn

While there may be something in the right hon. Gentleman's argument, would not he agree that not having this proposal would not guarantee that the Government would get their business? The House and the Select Committee decided that the Opposition must have some rights to obstruct Government business. That right remains. The obstruction would not disappear if this proposal were rejected. It would still be there. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of that?

Mr. Turton

The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten what he recommended. He rejected this particular solution on the ground that it would put more power in the hands of the Opposition than they would have under the original Standing Order. In other words, they would be more encouraged to dislocate business than under the present Standing Order.

The name of Mr. Geoffrey Bing has been mentioned. I am certain that if we were—as we very shortly will be— the Government again and hon. Gentlemen opposite were on the Opposition benches, Mr. Bing, if he were here, would find no difficulty at all in talking for four hours every morning to dislocate Government business. He was able to do that when we were in power. Indeed, the Leader of the House would, no doubt, be able to do precisely the same. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is proposing this change with a view to the time when he will be in opposition. One must have in mind the unanimous view of the Select Committee. That view was that this proposal should not be adopted by a responsible Government, because it would place such great power in the hands of the Opposition.

7.43 p.m.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

At least, we are making progress. That must be so when the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) says that we must have some means of getting rid of all-night sittings. However, it seems that hon. Gentlemen opposite are opposed to every suggestion made by the Government to alter the procedure of the House. I hope that, before we reach the end of debating these proposals, we will come across one suggestion with which they agree.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I must correct the hon. Gentleman. Is he aware that we allowed the Leader of the House to have 10 similar Motions the last time we discussed this matter and that we did not oppose them?

Mr. Blackburn

They were on minor matters. When we come to discuss fundamental matters of change in the procedure of the House, the Opposition are against them. As I said in a speech on this subject last week, most people agree that some reform of our procedure is needed, but when we get to specific suggestions hon. Gentlemen opposite start opposing them.

I am no great enthusiast for morning sittings. I appreciate the difficulties that they place on you, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Ways and Means, the staff of the House, the Cabinet, other Ministers and a great many hon. Members involved in Standing Committees. However, there are times when an occasional morning sitting is preferable to an all-night sitting. As one who is usually here during late sittings, I take a dim view of a remark made in the debate last week when an hon. Gentleman opposite said, "You cannot take it". Is that really a sensible way of approaching our affairs in the House?

I think that most hon. Gentlemen opposite are directors of firms. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I am not complaining about that. I am making a statement. I would be very surprised if they thought it sensible to discuss the affairs of the firms of which they are directors in the middle of the night. Yet it seems that they think it quite reasonable that we should discuss the affairs of the country in the middle of the night.

In the debate on procedure last week, one of the worst features of what happens in Finance Bill debates occurred. At 10 o'clock about half a dozen of the second eleven on the benches opposite arrived. Perhaps I should not call them that. If they consider that to be a derogatory remark, perhaps I should say that about half a dozen of the reserves arrived. We had not seen them during the earlier part of the day, yet they all proceeded to make speeches.

That is the sort of thing that happens. It is all very well to say that the Opposition are there to oppose, but there are two ways of opposing. One can oppose by obstruction—of which the Irish hon. Members were past-masters and for whom we had to alter the rules of the House—or one can oppose by the strength of debate. Opposition merely by obstruction gets us nowhere.

As I pointed out in the debate last week, when the former Leader of the House was boasting, after the 1965 Finance Bill, that hon. Gentlemen opposite had disrupted the business of the Government, all that he and his hon. Friends achieved was to make us sit for eight extra days at Whitsuntide and into August. A Government—any Government—will get their business, and if it means them keeping the House sitting longer that will be done. I therefore believe that there is a great deal of sense in trying to avoid these senseless all-night sittings.

In a memorandum which I submitted in 1964, I made a similar suggestion to the one we are discussing. I am, therefore, in favour of this proposal. There is no sense in continuing through the night a discussion of important matters of business. Indeed, I would send debates under Standing Order No. 9 to morning sittings and not allow such debates to disrupt the programme which has already been arranged. If there is agreement to have a debate under Standing Order No. 9, it should take place the following morning. I have been in agreement with the Leader of the House in most of these matters, but I must disagree with him about Standing Order No. 9 debates.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Surely it would be unjust to the Scottish Grand Committee to have these debates in the morning?

Mr. Blackburn

The Scottish Grand Committee does not meet every morning. I find that Scottish hon. Members are very adept at adapting themselves to whatever circumstances arise in the mornings. I am sure that they would manage to do something in these circumstances.

I did not look kindly at being kept for an extra three hours the other day because of the Standing Order No. 9 debate which took place. I do not look kindly on Members who make speeches early in the day and then disappear, leaving others to carry on the debate during the night. I therefore do not agree with my right hon. Friend about the last Standing Order No. 9 debate being a great success. I suggest that it was a flop, probably because my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was so much below his usual form. Possibly he was so amazed at getting a debate under the Standing Order No. 9 procedure that he had not recovered by the following day.

That is another matter which could very well be dealt with in morning sittings. These would happen only occasionally. Under my suggestion the debate under Standing Order No. 9 last week would have taken place on Tuesday morning and the continuation of the debate on what was supposed to be the Coal Industry Bill, but was actually on the White Paper, would have taken place cm the Wednesday morning. I am sure that it would have been for the convenience of hon. Members and we would have discussed important matters at a more sensible time.

I hope that hon. Members will accept this suggestion because by doing so we would improve the way in which the business of the House is conducted and to some extent we would improve our image in the country. Whatever hon. Members opposite may think about the value of all-night sittings, we get no kudos from the country because we conduct our business at such odd hours.

7.52 p.m.

Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I thought both the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) and the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) were a little naive as to the causes of the all-night sittings which they so much deplore. It is perfectly true that on occasion an hon. Member who knows a little about procedure and takes advantage of his opportunities can incommode the Government of the day. I have vivid recollections of the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury in that rôle. He took advantage of it with great skill, but in the normal course, it is simply the desire of the Government to get through too much controversial business in too short a time. If we look at what happened last summer we see that the main cause was simply that the Government were trying to push too much business through. It is an extraordinary doctrine that if the Patronage Secretary or the Leader of the House sees fit to put down certain business for the day it is a sign of terrible filibustering if that business is not completed by 10 p.m.

It is the job of the Leader of the House —one on which the present Leader has fallen down recently—to judge of the amount of business which the House will take. If the Government overload the programme they will get an all-night sitting. That is the natural reaction of an Opposition to a Government trying to drive the House too hard. The idea that whatever goes down on the Order Paper in the wisdom of the Government must be law by 10 p.m. is a very unpleasantly authoritarian idea which I very much resent.

The Leader of the House was very skilful in his speech when he said nothing at all about the demise of his morning sittings experiment of last Session. They were a most almighty flop and caused an enormous amount of inconvenience, particularly to those who serve us. They must have cost a great amount of public money. They got through very little business, but in many ways they brought the House into contempt. The Leader of the House cannot say that we did not warn him that this would happen. He produced this ludicrous ill thought-out procedure which failed. He was warned that it would fail, but instead of learning from that he has come forward with an even worse proposal which we warn him will also fail. He is not present at the moment to be warned. He would be a wiser man if occasionally he stayed to listen to speeches.

This new proposal is even worse than the old one. It was suggested at first that we should not take important and really major business in the mornings. The right hon. Gentleman had the decency on the previous occasion not to put down controversial business for morning sittings. They were second-class sittings taking third-class business. Under the new proposal morning sittings may well involve major business. We did have a little notice of the business for the previous morning sittings. It was known a week before what would be the business on those mornings. Subject to the confusion which Government business has been in during the last year or two, we had an idea of what the business would be. Now it is contemplated that late at night—perhaps after midnight, because the proposed Standing Order contemplates this being done after midnight—suddenly the Leader of the House, whom I am glad to see back in his place, or the Minister in charge of the Bill, in a fit of petulance will say, "All right, you will come back at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning to continue the business ".

Has the right hon. Gentleman thought out what would happen if that action were taken? First, there is Mr. Speaker and his deputies, all of whom work hard in the morning and have detailed and important meetings which would have to be scratched at a few hours' notice—work essential to the proper working of this House. Ministers would be dragged from their offices. It may be argued that that would be a good thing as it might keep them out of mischief, but it would be very inconvenient and an inefficient way of running government.

What about hon. Members on Standing Committees who are interested in the business debated the night before? Are they not to attend a Standing Committee but to attend the adjourned sitting of the House? What about hon. Members who have perfectly respectable and important engagements of one sort or another on the following morning? Are they to cancel those engagements after midnight? What about parties of constituents brought here to be shown over the building by arrangements of some months' standing? Are those arrangements to be cancelled all because a Minister got into a temper at 1 o'clock in the morning? This is not the way to conduct the business of the House.

What about the staff of the House? Under the present roster system some of those who are on duty at night are not those who are on duty for the first shift next day. That is the only humane way to run these things. What is to happen when at 1 a.m. we are told the House will meet again at 10? Are they to come and get into their uniforms by that time?

Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirk-dale) rose

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the hon. Member feels that he speaks with authority on this matter, certainly I shall give way. [Hon. Members: "Oh"] I want, first, to put the question so that if the hon. Member speaks with authority he may answer it. Even he cannot answer a question until it is put. Those who would normally be coming here at 2.30 are to be told in the middle of the night that they have to be here at 9 a.m. or 9.30 a.m. for a sitting at 10 a.m.

Mr. Dunn

I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman thinks I tried to jump the question. I was not intending to be discourteous. Is he aware that some of the staff on occasion have been on continuous duty for more than 24 hours and once for 31 hours?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am aware of that. It was almost wholly the responsibility of the Lord President of the Council, despite the warnings we gave him. The hon. Member has made an extremely good point, but he must realise that this is a powerful argument against having morning sittings, which brought this about last Session. The only difference in this proposal, as the hon. Member will appreciate, is that on the other occasions those so unfortunately placed were apt to have some notice of what would happen, whereas in this case they will have very little notice at all. Many of these people will be in their homes, which may be in the outer London area. Someone will have to communicate with them in the middle of the night and tell them that they have to be on parade early in the morning.

The hon. Member who concerns himself with the staff will realise, I hope, the additional hardship which would be involved. It is not for the hon. Gentleman, nor for me, but for the Leader of the House to explain how this is to be handled, and how it is to be handled without causing unnecessary hardship. This is one of the many reasons why this proposal is extraordinarily inefficient.

We know that we cannot function as a House without those who help us here. If the HANSARD reporters are not there— they, too, are rostered on various timetables—and if the messengers are not there, the House cannot function. What I think the Leader of the House will do, if the proposal goes through, is to produce a shambles and perhaps even the humiliating situation in which Mr. Speaker and the House assemble, but are unable to sit for lack of the physical means of doing so—a situation which would undoubtedly be very damaging to the reputation of the House.

This seems to me to be a completely cock-eyed proposal. In the passage of the speech the Leader of the House made on 14th November, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) quoted, the right hon. Gentleman said that this was intended to be a deterrent, that he really did not intend to do it but wanted to arm himself and his colleagues with a threat which would enable them to get business through much quicker at night than they otherwise would. The right hon. Gentleman and I have been in the House for the same length of time, I think. I should have thought that he had learned by now that the one way not to handle the House of Commons is to threaten it. The House does not react well to deterrents or to threats.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

Has not the right hon. Gentleman admitted that morning sittings were a failure because of the deliberate obstruction of the Opposition in debating for lengthy periods matters which in previous years had gone through more or less on the nod? He speaks of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House threatening the House. Is not the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Opposition now threatening to frustrate this procedure before it has even been implemented? Would he not concede that whilst we are asking the country to modernise the Opposition are quite happy to let the House stay in the 19th century?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have rarely heard so many misconceptions expressed in such a comparatively limited intervention. First, I said nothing of the sort which the hon. Gentleman attributes to me about morning sittings. I said that they had been a fiasco, that they were singularly badly attended, as they were particularly by hon. Members opposite, and that they had caused the greatest of hardship to Mr. Speaker, to hon. Members and to the staff of the House. I did not say anything about those proceedings having been obstructed. If the hon. Gentleman studies HANSARD tomorrow, he will see that this is so and that he owes me an apology.

Secondly, I am reacting to a threat. The Leader of the House used the word "deterrent". I am only telling him that, as a matter of experience in the House, which some of us have had, deterrents are not a very wise or rewarding thing to use against the House, because the House, regardless of party, has a very strong and instinctive reaction to this kind of threat.

If the Leader of the House does not worry about that, which he probably does not, he may like to reflect further on the nature of deterrents. To deter, they must be credible. By the time we have analysed this proposal properly and fully, as I hope we shall, by the time the Leader of the House has addressed his mind to the practical question of what will happen when at 1 o'clock in the morning a Minister decides to invoke this procedure—

Mr. Blackburn

Why one o'clock?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Because that is just the kind of time at which a Minister may well decide to do so.

Mr. Blackburn

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be much more sensible to do it at 10 p.m. each night?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In that case, perhaps the hon. Gentleman can explain why the Standing Order makes specific provision for this being done after midnight. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that this should not be done after midnight, I wonder why he did not table an Amendment to take out that provision.

Mr. Blackburn

I am willing to accept the Motion as it is. I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman's argument. He keeps mentioning one o'clock. It seems to me that from his own argument it would be more sensible to do it earlier.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

This is a foolish thing to do at any stage. If the hon. Gentleman prefers, I will say two o'clock. What the hon. Gentleman must address his mind to is that these proposals enable a Minister to do it at any stage, and they make specific provision for this being done after midnight. In other words, the Leader of the House is so clearly contemplating the possibility of doing it after midnight that he has had the forethought to provide in the Standing Order for precisely that contingency.

It is a matter of degree, certainly. I give this to the hon. Gentleman: the later it is done, obviously the worse it is and the more foolish it is. The hon. Gentleman would find that very great difficulties would arise even if it were done at 10 p.m., as he suggests, when so many of the staff off duty have gone home, and, indeed, when hon. Members have concluded their arrangements for the next day. These difficulties will be nearly as severe at 10 p.m. as they will be at 1 a.m. The hon. Gentleman must realise that the one o'clock contingency is contemplated and very likely to arise, because no Minister will want to do this if he can avoid it. He would much rather get his business the same night. Therefore, it will probably be at a fairly late stage that it will begin to dawn on him that he may not be going to get his business for some time and he may therefore decide to invoke this procedure.

It would indeed be a very faint-hearted Minister who at 10 p.m. decided to invoke this procedure. Any hon. Gentleman with some experience of all-night sittings knows that the House goes in curious tides and moods. Sometimes a Clause takes a very long time and then, that Clause having been debated and voted on, the next stages go through quickly. Any experienced Minister knows that. It would be an extraordinarily rash Minister who decided to adopt this procedure at 10 p.m. But if he did, practically all the considerations I have mentioned would still arise. There would still be very great inconvenience, not only to hon. Members and to the Government, but to those who serve us and to the public at large. This would be aggravated in degree as the night proceeded.

I therefore hope that the Leader of the House will decide not to do this. If he does decide to do this, I shall wait with interest to see whether, in the light of the factors which I hope he now understands, in practice any of his right hon. Friends indulge in the folly of invoking it.

8.7 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I find the Leader of the House fascinating, because, although he has been in the House for 22 years, he has probably spent a shorter amount of time in the Chamber, except when he was making one of his illustrious speeches when the Labour Party was in opposition, than almost any other Member of the House, even those returned in 1966.

Half the trouble about the right hon. Gentleman's so-called reforms is that he does not understand how this place works. I personally have a good deal of sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. The trouble is that he cannot translate it into a sensible mode of procedure.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has devoted a good deal of time to explaining the effect this procedure would have on the staff. May I say to the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), who has now left the Chamber but who might possibly read this in HANSARD, that the idea that all opposition at all times comes from the Opposition benches is a complete non sequitur. In the last Parliament we had an all-night sitting on a Bill connected with judges' remuneration. With the exception of the speech of the hon. Member for Ormskirk, every speech was made from the Government benches. Are hon. Members opposite to be deprived of such opportunities for protest?

Only last week we had a debate on the coal industry, which went on until 7 o'clock in the morning. I admit that, because of the operation of Standing Order No. 9, there had been a three-hour debate earlier in the day, but, even without that three-hour debate, the debate on the coal industry would have continued until 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. Most of the speeches were made not from this side of the House, but from the Government benches, by hon. Members who wanted to say something on behalf of their constituents and of the the industry with which they were connected. It was an issue about which they felt deeply and they wanted to put their points to the House.

Let us get away once and for all from the idea that, when we are thinking of altering procedure, we are thinking only of the Opposition doing the opposing. Lots of other hon. Members want to oppose from time to time; it is not always the official Opposition.

Mr. Crossman

I know something about that, from personal experience.

Sir D. Glover

With respect, I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows a good deal more about opposition than he does about leading the House.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames and said something about our insisting on staying in the 19th century. I hold the strange view that our predecessors were not all fools and that of lot of our procedure has developed because, after trial and error, they found that it worked.

When I first came to the House, if the Government of the day wanted to continue a debate after 10 o'clock at night, they had to move the suspension of the rule at 3.30 in the afternoon, which meant that they probably had to have a three-line Whip and vote on the suspension. It was ray party which altered that, and now we do it at 10 p.m.

I believe that our forebears were wise when they provided for suspension of the rule at half-past three in the afternoon. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to alter our procedure, he might well look back at the reason why they did it. If the procedure which the right hon. Gentleman is now trying to bring in is to have a cat in hell's chance of working, what will happen? At half-past three in the after-noon, the Leader of the House or the Minister of charge of the Bill will have to move that the House will at 12 o'clock that night adjourn till 10 o'clock the following morning.

Mr. Blackburn

Both the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames have a misunderstanding about the reference to 12 o'clock. The Motion begins, a motion may be made after ten of the clock "— and the reference to midnight comes only because one has then to think in terms of the same day and not the following morning.

Sir D. Glover

I have got that point. I am referring to 12 o'clock in my argument only because I do not believe that Ministers will call the House back at 10 o'clock the next morning if important business is under way at 10 o'clock at night. They will say that it would be far better to have a couple of hours more that night.

I am trying to be practical here and suggesting how the matter could be formalised. I suggest that, before the sitting starts at the beginning of the day, there would have to be a Motion that, if the business was not completed by midnight, the House would automatically adjourn and meet again at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

Although I am not in favour of reducing the powers of the Opposition, that would at least be a logical Motion to put before the House. In those circumstances, it would mean that, at half-past three, the staff would know that the House was likely to meet at 10 o'clock in the morning. Arrangements could be made, and the staffing problems of the House would fall into line. It would be a logical arrangement which would enable various matters to be dealt with.

There is another aspect of the question about which the right hon. Gentleman does not appear to have thought. If under the proposed arrangement now before us, a Minister gets angry, tired, bored, or fed up at midnight or one o'clock—or 10 o'clock, if the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) wants it—and suddenly decides off the cuff to adjourn the House and bring it back automatically at 10 o'clock the next morning, what does his Chief Whip do about getting a quorum the following morning?

This is an important point, and I should like the Patronage Secretary to listen to it. Does he send round to the 100 or 120 Members he has in the House at midnight and say, "You boys must be here tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock", or does he try to get the 240 Members who are not in the House back at 10 o'clock in the morning? He will not do the latter, I am sure, because he cannot get hold of them. So the Members who have been here the night before will be whipped to be here at 10 o'clock the following morning. This will apply to both sides.

On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman accepted my suggestion for formalising this arrangement by an announcement at half-past three, the Whips on both sides could send out a Whip saying that it was probable that people would have to be here at 10 o'clock the next morning. That would apply to all Members, part-timers, full-timers, Ministers—the whole shooting match. It would avoid the argument which, I am sure, would otherwise develop on the Government side, with Members feeling angry and frustrated because 120 Members are "carrying the can" and taking the heat and burden of the day while their lawyer colleagues and the rest are all going off and not being touched by these decisions at all.

I shall not pursue that point further. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has produced an unworkable Standing Order. I accept that the thinking behind what he wants to do has some logic in it, but the right hon. Gentleman does not understand how the House works. It might be a good idea if we started a class in Parliamentary procedure for the Leader of the House. If we did, we might get very much better working of the House.

Any hon. Member worth his salt ought to use the rules of order to the best advantage when opposing the Government of the day. This does not necessarily mean that he wants to be here all night or that he will want to do this or that. But, as one of the duties of the Opposition is to make it difficult for the Government to get their business, it is right and proper that the Opposition should use every advantage of our procedure.

I believe that the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's new proposal will be that, far from getting more business, the Government will get less. At 12 or 1 o'clock at night, I, or the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), if he is thinking of intervening in a debate, is under a certain amount of pressure even from his own colleagues. They say, "For heaven's sake, let us pack up and go home". But there will not be that pressure at 10 o'clock in the morning. They will be encouraged by the Opposition Whips to come in and make speeches. There will be a totally different attitude of mind. This is why I say that, if the present proposal is accepted, the Government will get through less business, not more. There will be an atmosphere of more frustration. It is an unworkable scheme, but it could be made workable if the right hon. Gentleman would heed some of the suggestions which I made at the beginning of my speech about how he could make it work.

8.23 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

As one who spent a few mornings assisting the House to the best of his poor ability in the sittings so thoughtfully provided by the party opposite last Session, I have seen the demise of morning sittings without shedding a tear. Moreover, I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, must have suffered long hours to very little advantage in the House at those sittings. We shall all be glad to see the end of them.

The new arrangement proposed by the Leader of the House is, if anything, more dotty than what went before. It is to be interpreted as a veiled threat of a kind quite different from what many of my hon. Friends have yet suggested. Clearly, a lot of highly controversial legislation is to be put before us, and the Government will not allow enough time for it. They are making arrangements in advance. I do not know whether their frightful Budget of next year is already pre-guillotined and will not be discussed in the House. But, apart from that, there is, plainly, a lot of very controversial legislation ahead, not least, perhaps, that magnificent project for the expenditure of taxpayer's money, set forth in the Minister of Transport's latest little volume. All this will be highly objectionable.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

What does my hon. Friend mean by "magnificent" in that context?

Dr. Bennett

I mean "grandiose". It is part of the grandiosity from which the Government still suffer.

The obvious threat to hon. Members on both sides is that there will be a great deal of controversial legislation for which the Government do not propose to allow adequate time. We all know that there never need be all-night sittings if a Government allow enough time for the discussion of the business they provide. The Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary will have no need to call upon the kind of Standing Order proposed if they provide the time the House needs to discuss legislation, and allow more time for controversial legislation. Here is a clear threat that we shall have inadequate time for controversial legislation, and this artifice is a way of preventing the Opposition having their right of full discussion.

I sympathise with the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn). Everything he said tonight shows that he is a worthy member of a party in Government who do not wish to have discussion on anything they want to do. He wants to cut it short at 10 o'clock every night.

Mr. Blackburn

The hon. Gentleman could not have listened to my speech. I wonder whether he remains very often at the all-night ordeals.

Dr. Bennett

I hope that some of the hon. Gentleman's Ministerial colleagues will have touching memories of my attention to them at some of the all-night sittings. I shall do my best to add to those memories. The hon. Gentleman was no doubt taking a well-earned rest at the time.

The hon. Gentleman has shown what I regard as one of the most fatuous characteristics of the Motion. If, as he wants, the House rises at 10 p.m. and decides to meet at 10 a.m. the next day, the maximum to which the sitting could extend would be 2 o'clock that afternoon. That is the equivalent of sitting through until 2 o'clock in the morning, which is not generally regarded as very late. I remember that when the Conservatives took over from the Attlee Government rising at 3 a.m. was considered rather early, it was rather a blessing to be able to go home at 3 a.m. when we were debating the Estimates. Rising at 2 o'clock is not at all unreasonable, but that is equivalent to all that will be allowed if we sit from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. the day after the business has stopped punctually at 10 p.m., as the hon. Gentleman seems to wish.

Mr. Woodburn

Part of the debate is taking place on a misunderstanding. The Motion says: …after ten of the clock…". It does not say that we shall adjourn at 10 o'clock. It might be midnight.

Dr. Bennett

While the right hon. Gentleman was out of the Chamber there was a great deal of pressure from the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. When my right hon. and hon. Friends said that the Motion to suspend the sitting might be moved at midnight or 1 a.m. he said that he wished it to be moved at 10 o'clock and no later. If that happened, there would be provided at the most a morning sitting equivalent to sitting from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The maximum time allowable will be cut down to what we now know as a 2 o'clock morning, which is not regarded as very late on a controversial matter.

Opposition is unwelcome to the Leader of the House. It is always unwelcome to the Government, but he shows that a little more rudely than has been shown in previous Parliaments. We have here the open intention to shorten the Opposition's opportunities to discuss legislation, as is usual while the right hon. Gentleman is Leader of the House.

One of the things that made the last Session's morning sittings profoundly ridiculous was that there was no provision for a quorum. It was usually only hon. Members on this side of the House who wished to discuss, probably adversely, the business before the House. The benches opposite were almost empty all morning, and nothing could be done about it. Are we to understand, as there is nothing to the contrary in the Motion, that a quorum will be required at this new type of morning sitting? Apparently, Divisions will be possible and, therefore, there will be a need to count heads from time to time. Is there no need for the House to be given the courtesy of a quorum? Will it be done away with yet again? That may well be in the right hon. Gentleman's mind.

It is coupled with the point, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) touched on lightly, of whether the normal process of having Counts, which are normal to the activity of the House to ensure fuller attendance, will be permitted. We shall later consider a Motion dealing with them. But they concern us now because I imagine that if there are no counts—and some of the later Motions suggest that after 10 p.m. there can be none—the Government will use their absence to prevent any need to have a quorum in the morning sittings, which will reduce them to something like the fatuity of their predecessors in the last Session.

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman realises the love which will be felt for him and his Government in the constituencies, from which busloads of visitors come to see the House, often by arrangements made months in advance. They cannot possibly be put off and they will arrive, hoping to be shown around, only to be turned away because the House is sitting.

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

Under the Transport Bill there will not be any more coaches to bring them here.

Dr. Bennett

I suppose that it will be only people from the London constituencies who will visit the House after the Bill goes on the Statute Book.

One way or another, the Government will do a great deal of harm to the good people from all constituencies who from time to time wish to visit the Houses of Parliament. They will have no warning, but will be turned away with the utmost discourtesy, for it is a discourtesy to turn them away without warning, no matter how tactful the servants of the House may be. I strongly resent this. It is a minor but very bad feature of this idiotic Motion that that should be allowed to take place. Therefore, my right hon. and hon. Friends should vote the Motion down if they can.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. Crossman

Perhaps I may now reply to the points raised, and explain as fully as I can, or reveal the secrets of, what is in my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary's mind as well as mine on how this Standing Order would work. First, I shall take the point about visitors put by the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett). If we suspend a sitting in the middle of the night and resume next morning, or continue and have an all-night sitting, from time to time visitors will be incommoded either way. It will make no difference whether there is an interval or not. I take it that the hon. Gentleman would not wish us to suspend an all-night sitting rather than have visitors incommoded.

All of us welcome visitors, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that we cannot turn this place into a museum. We need it for the purposes of Parliament and the House must undertake those purposes. It is important for him to realise that all-night sittings which overrun into the morning have the same effect on visiting as interrupted sittings resumed in the morning would have.

Dr. Bennett

But all-night sittings— with rare exceptions of which I have memory—have in the vast preponderance of cases ended between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Very few run after 11 a.m.

Mr. Woodburn

Is not the hon. Gentleman mistaken in his assumption, in any case, in that if an all-night sitting is suspended for resumption in the morning visitors will be able to get into the Strangers Gallery?

Mr. Crossman

We already have arrangements whereby visitors are not able to come into the Chamber on Friday mornings. There is an alternative route for them when the House is sitting, although admittedly it is not as good and may disappoint them. The hon. Gentleman admitted that his was a secondary argument, and it must remain so because Parliamentary business must prevail.

I have listened with great pleasure to the speeches opposite. I have never been showered with such kindly solicitude or such contemptuous, condescending, compassion as on this proposal. It is said that this proposal would be of enormous advantage to the Opposition. Therefore it bewilders me to hear their arguments, because I thought that they were such a strenuous Opposition. One would think that by this proposal the Opposition would be positively benefited, yet they say that this is the most idiotic, stupid, insane and silly proposal, and they will revel in it. Very well, let them revel.

We have had great jokes about the proposal. We have been told about the fun Opposition Members will have, and how they will run rings round us. We shall see. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) is always contemptuous about what he regards as my little experience of the House. I have had this from him several times. Let him have his pleasure. Apparently I am a simple man led by cleverer people. Let us see what happens when the great brains opposite try to defeat us.

No one has mentioned that last Session's morning sittings did not in fact dislocate Government business. That was not their weakness. They gave the Government a great deal of business very cheaply indeed. Therefore, the picture of myself as an innocent whose morning sittings were destroying Government business is not borne out by an analysis of the history of the last months of last Session. Indeed, we were getting through Government business so easily that I was somewhat anxious, and thought that we should have to wind up morning sittings because of that.

Dr. Bennett

Cheaply in what sense?

Mr. Crossman

Cheaply in terms of the time spent on Bills. I gave a list giving information of the amount of time we spent. There has also been talk about the number of people who attended the morning sittings. I made some statistical observations concerning the Members who attended morning sittings and those liable to be in the Chamber between midnight and 2 a.m. if the same business had been done then. I found that there was no marked difference.

What was the point of morning sittings.? It was that, since the House was inadequately attended for inconvenient secondary business in the night, we should have that business at a more convenient time. No one thought that the number of hon. Members attending would be much different whether we had the business at a morning sitting or between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. That was not the test.

There were two tests. The first was on the dislocation of Government business, and that did not happen. On the contrary, the Government were getting their business remarkably easily. My worry was that it was not achieving the objective of cutting down late nights, which was the second test. We were still laving late nights. But the Government were getting their business and there was no dislocation there.

I would point out to those who have talked about the dislocated programme of an ignoramus that we got more legislation through in the last Session than had ever been done before in one Session. Perhaps too much. But we are being laughed at by the professionals opposite. I would only say to them that if we get through as much business this Session as in last Session I shall be glad to be called an ignoramus. I am told that I know nothing about the job of Government, but my job is to "take" what I am called provided we succeed, and in terms of success and failure I am prepared to stand by the record of Government business during the last months of last Session when there were morning sittings.

The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) have had their jokes and have thought the Motion funny. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Ormskirk with great attention, because I think that he has an interest in what might be called the psychological warfare of Parliamentary procedure. He sees it in terms which I, too, used to study. I thought that in the course of his speech I recognised the half-digested beginning of thinking out this problem and, if he goes as far as we did, he may come to the same conclusions.

But I will not tell him in advance what our strategy and tactics are to be. Why should I? I will leave him to his innocent enjoyment of the future, looking forward to how hon. Members opposite will defeat the poor innocents on this side and use this Motion to stop our business. Let them try! All I am saying now is that it is possible that at we have thought out in advance some of the thoughts which he mentioned to us, but we are not prepared to reveal our conclusions. Why should we tell him?

Sir Edward Brown (Bath)

Will the Leader of the House give us some sincere direction as Leader of the House and not make a mockery of this procedure? We are debating what he wants to put across to the House; he is not being sincere in what he is now saying.

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking for a certain amount of sincere, direct, open speech from my side of the House. I have been listening to a torrent of contemptuous abuse. I have been delighted to receive it, but it is only fair to reply in kind. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman missed those speeches and has just come into the Chamber; he has missed an interesting debate. I do not intend, and in defending this Motion I do not have to, to reveal in advance the tactics which we shall use in seeking to deter these late night sittings.

The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said that the House did not like deterrents and resented and reacted badly against Ministers who use language of that kind. I think that he is right and that it is better to use them without talking too much about them. Let me give an example. When in office the Tory Party did not apply any deterrents. It believed in "dropping the atom bomb" and not merely threatening with it. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite had 15 Guillotines: so far we have had three. We have used the deterrent more successfully than they used the actual bomb. They dropped the bomb at regular intervals and made themselves very unpopular.

We have saved ourselves from dropping it because the Patronage Secretary knows the art of suggesting the use of the Guillotine at a point when its use is then made unnecessary. I congratulate him on the art with which he got the Steel Bill through with a Guillotine. A lesser man like me, simpler and cruder and more ingenuous, might have been driven exacerbated to losing his temper in a moment and clapping on the Guillotine, as the right hon. Member suggested, but the Patronage Secretary sits there silent until he puts a word into my mouth, or into the mouth of the Minister, knowing just how to get the Steel Bill through without a Guillotine.

I do not want to mention a word like "deterrent" because we now have the voluntary timetable. I do not like to say that there is anything behind the voluntary timetable, because there is, but I am not allowed to say so. All I shall say is that it works very well, and I am not prepared to think that it will not work in this case, even if I am laughed at for its existence.

What are we to do? We are here taking the power to suspend a sitting whenever it is thought appropriate, and the reason we are taking it is simply and solely in order to deter or prevent not the all-night sitting, because, as I have said, we do not want to prevent the all-night sitting, but the late-night sitting, the sitting which ends at 2 or 3 or 4 o'clock and which is the result of the conditions which I have described. I am told that this Motion will have no effect or exacerbate them; we shall see.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen need not worry too much about the staff of the House of Commons. We have consulted the staff and there are no technical difficulties whatever. Some will be on rota and some will carry through, and what happens now on an all-night sitting can happen on an interrupted sitting. If there can be staff for an all-night sitting there can be staff for an interrupted sitting for a few hours in the morning.

I am confident, from what I have learned, that the staff would definitely prefer the risks—yes, there are risks and gambles in what we are now doing from their point of view—to the prospect of the alternative which they suffered last summer. I think that they are right to prefer it, because they do not take quite the same view of the way we may conduct business as the hon. Member for Ormskirk. They take the view that we may succeed in what we are up to. He is confident, of course, with his wisdom, with his cleverness, with his supreme understanding of procedure, that he will defeat the Government.

Right, we will just wait and see when the test comes, when the Report stages come and the times when these things might be necessary. We will see whether it actually happens. We are not concerned with stopping all-night sittings. All-night sittings, especially what I call the private Members all-night sitting, is a right which private Members will always enforce, and should be allowed to do so.

This is why I said on the question of sending the Finance Bill upstairs, that I would certainly fight for the right of a private Member to continue to have his say on the Finance Bill, even if it meant sitting up all night on Report. I am certain that there will be at least one all-night sitting on Report, if I know the spirit which private Members show in making the kind of speeches that they do on that occasion. That is why we have left that provision; that is why I got that recognised in the Consolidated Fund Bill.

We are not dealing with this, but with something quite different. We are dealing with die situation where one has a certain amount of business which could be got through perfectly sensibly and competently in a couple of hours, but people protract it for four or five hours, or more, to the great inconvenience of all the rest of us. I am told that this little Motion will greatly assist all those who want to sabotage the Budget and that I should be grateful to those who oppose it. We do not agree, and we will be able to test who is right and who is wrong when we have passed this Motion and the months have passed and we come to the time when such happenings are likely.

Mr. Turton

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Select Committee on Procedure, on which his own side are in a majority, were quite wrong in coming to this conclusion?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, because it was on my notes to reply to him on that point about the automatic stop at 12 o'clock midnight. May I reveal a secret to him. Our intentions in applying this Motion are very different from an automatic stop. The whole art of this Motion is that the stop is not automatic. It is the automatic stop at 12 which gives all the power to the Opposition. It is the lack of automaticity, or shall we say the holding of discretion on this side, which gives the initiative, or might do, to this side.

It is no good arguing any more, because the great thing is to test who is right and who is wrong. I am willing to have a little wager behind Mr. Speaker's Chair with the hon. Member for Ormskirk, if he is prepared to, that by the end of this Session he will be able to make this same speech, but from the other side of his face.

Dr. Bennett

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the point about Quorums and Counts?

Mr. Crossman

It is strictly out of order, because a following Motion deals with Counts. If the next but one were carried there would be no Counts but there will be Divisions, and if there are Divisions that is a perfectly good substitute for a Count in testing whether the House is there.

8.44 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I had hoped to catch your eye before the right hon. Gentleman rose, Mr. Speaker, but there are one or two points of his argument which seem so extraordinary that I must deal with them. It seems to have been assumed by those who support this Motion, including the right hon. Gentleman, that it is necessary to have morning sittings in order to stop all-night sittings.

There are many of use who are in favour of some formula to prevent unnecessary all-night sittings, but it does not necessarily follow that one has to threaten a morning sitting in order to get rid of an all-night sitting. It is accepted that morning sittings have been a failure, an almightly flop, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said.

The Leader of the House on 14th November said as much. He said: It will not surprise the House when I now announce that we have decided not to renew that particular Sessional Order— that is, the Order for morning sittings. Later, he said that. … morning sittings, in the form in which we tried them, failed to do their job".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th Nov. 1967; Vol 754, c. 244–57.] He comes before the House today in praise of them and says how cheaply the Government got their business. This is not the way to treat the House. The House is a debating Chamber. It is not some place in which the Government steamroller through their business without any of their back bench Members present.

After saying that it was a failure, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say: Finally, we propose a new Standing Order which will permit a morning sitting as a direct substitute for a late sitting on the night before. So it is now suggested that we should have morning sittings, not announced in advance as they were before, but at a moment's notice, not non-controversial, as they had been, but controversial, with Divisions and, apparently, with Counts.

I must refer to a passage in the speech of the Leader of the House on 14th November, in which he said that this procedure would not be used very frequently; it was to be used only as a deterrent. He continued with what I think was a slur on the House and on hon. Members. He said that it would be … a means of reducing the number of occasions when hard working whole-time Members are kept hanging around the Palace of Westminster by a handful of Members, some of them amateurs, inspired by that unique combination of post-prandial high spirits and moral indigation which, late at night, can keep a debate going long after the topic is exhausted. That was a smear on the House. Here is the Leader of the House coming as a sort of bullying headmaster and saying, "Come to my study in the morning". The reference to amateur Members shows what is in his mind. He hopes, by this sort of threat, to prevent those who have interests outside the House from attending to them during the morning.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the constituencies send their Members to Parliament to represent them in Parliament and not to pursue part-time jobs outside the House? Although the House may be tolerant of this practice, would he not agree that it is quite wrong for such hon. Members to come into the House late at night, having been absent all day, to keep full-time Members sitting at their pleasure?

Mr. Page

I find that I can serve the House better if I bring to it up-to-date knowledge of a practical profession than by sitting in the Tea Room all morning.

The Motion is relevant only to exempted business, because other business will stop at 10 o'clock anyway. Exempted business is business which the House thinks so important that it should discuss it and continue to discuss it after 10 o'clock. Therefore, having decided that it is important business, either by suspending the rule at 10 o'clock or by Standing Orders, the business is to be suspended at the whim of a Minister.

What the Leader of the House professed to wish to stop in all-night sittings was expressed when he said:

"What we should seek to prevent is not the deliberate, determined, all-night sitting as a method of opposition, but the haphazard late-night sitting dragging on to the early hours."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1967; Vol. 754, c. 255–6.]

There is no distinction in the Motion between a "deliberate, determined, all-night sitting" and a "haphazard" sitting. A debate is none the worse for being haphazard. Hon. Members may wish to make constituency speeches which they do not have an opportunity to make in other debates, and there is no harm in their making them at a late hour. It is not always evident in debate where the chink in one's opponent's armour is until the debate has proceeded for some time. It may be haphazard in prodding and thrusting to see where are the weak points of one's opponent. One goes on thrusting, perhaps in a haphazard way, until the thrust sinks in. I would not have thought a debate any the worse for being haphazard.

Perhaps I ought to have read out a previous sentence in the right hon. Gentleman's speech on 14th November, when he said: I think that there come times—maybe they will come this Session—when a Government Measure arouses such profound opposition that the all-night sitting becomes a perfectly legitimate weapon of opposition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1967; Vol. 754, c. 256.] Not there come times. The time has come when all the Measures of this Government arouse such profound opposition that we do not wish to be deprived of this perfectly legitimate weapon for opposing those Measures.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 230, Noes 126.

Division No. 18.] AYES [8.50 p.m.
Albu, Austen Bessell, Peter Buchan, Norman
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bidwell, Sydney Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Alldritt, Walter Binns, John Cant, R. B.
Anderson, Donald Bishop, E. S. Carmichael, Neil
Archer, Peter Blackburn, F. Carter-Jones, Lewis
Armstrong, Ernest Blenkinsop, Arthur Coe, Denis
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Boardman, H. Coleman, Donald
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Booth, Albert Concannon, J. D.
Bagler, Gordon A. T. Boston, Terence Contan, Bernard
Barnes, Michael Boyden, James Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Barnett, Joel Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Baxter, William Brooks, Edwin Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard
Beaney, Alan Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Cullen, Mrs. Alice
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Daiyell, Tam
Bence, Cyril Brown, R. W. (Shoredltch & F'bury) Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)
Davidson James(Aberdeenshire,W.) Irvine, Sir Arthur Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Paget, R. T.
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Palmer, Arthur
Davies, Harold (Leek) Johnson, Carol (Lewlsham, S.) Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Pardoe, John
Dell, Edmund Jones, Dan (Burnley) Park, Trevor
Dempsey, James Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Dewar, Donald Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Judd, Frank Pavitt, Laurence
Dobson, Ray Kelley, Richard Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Doig, Peter Kenyon, Clifford Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dunn, James A. Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Pentland, Norman
Dunnett, Jack Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Leadbitter, Ted Price, William (Rugby)
Eadie, Alex Ledger, Ron Probert, Arthur
Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Randall, Harry
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lee, John (Reading) Rankin, John
Ellis, John Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rees, Merlyn
Ensor, David Lomas, Kenneth Rhodes, Geoffrey
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Loughlin, Charles Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Lubbock, Eric Robertson, John (Paisley)
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Fernyhough, E. Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Pinch, Harold McCann, John Rose, Paul
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Macdonald, A. H. Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McGuire, Michael Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Ryan, John
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)
Forrester, John Mackintosh, John P. Sheldon, Robert
Fraser, John (Norwood) Maclennan, Robert Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N 'c' tie-u-Tyne)
Galpern, Sir Myer MacMilian, Malcolm (Western Isles) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Gardner, Tony McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Garrett, W. E. McNamara, J. Kevin Slater, Joseph
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) MacPhereon, Malcolm Small, William
Gregory, Arnold Mahon, Peter (Preston, 8.) Spriggs, Leslie
Grey, Charles (Durham) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mapp, Charles Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Mantling, William Marks, Kenneth Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Hannan, William Mason, Roy Swain, Thomas
Harper, Joseph Maxwell, Robert Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mendelson, J. J. Tinn, James
Haseldine, Norman Mikardo, Ian Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Hattersley, Roy Milne, Edward (Blyth) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hazell, Bert Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Watkins, David (Consett)
Heffer, Eric S. Molloy, William Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Henig, Stanley Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Weitzman, David
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Wellbeloved, James
Hilton, W. S. Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) White, Mrs. Eirene
Hooley, Frank Moyle, Roland Whitlock, William
Hooson, Emlyn Murray, Albert Wilkins, W. A.
Horner, John Neal, Harold Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Newens, Stan Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Norwood, Christopher Winniok, David
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Oakes, Gordon Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Ogden, Eric Winterbottom, R. E.
Howie, W. O'Malley, Brian Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Hoy, James Oram, Albert E. Yates, Victor
Huckfield, Leslie Orbach, Maurice
Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Orme, Stanley TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oswald, Thomas Mr. Eric G. Varley and Mr. Neil McBride.
Hunter, Adam Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Burden, F. A. Elliott.R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne.N.)
Aator, John Campbell, Gordon Emery, Peter
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Carlisle, Mark Errington, Sir Erie
Awdry, Daniel Chichester-Clark, R. Eyre, Reginald
Baker, W. H. K. Clegg, Walter Farr, John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Cooke, Robert Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Got, & Fhm) Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Fortescue, Tim
Bitten, John Cordle, John Gibson-Watt, David
Biggs-Davison, John Costain, A. P. Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Black, Sir Cyril Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Glover, Sir Douglas
Blaker, Peter Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver Glyn, Sir Richard
Boardman, Thomas (Leicester, S.W.) Crouch, David Goodhew, Victor
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Cunningham, Sir Knox Cower, Raymond
Bromley - Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Dance, James Grant, Anthony
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Doughty, Charles Gresham Cooke, R.
Buchanan-Smith, Allck(Angus, NAM) Drayson, G. B. Grieve, Percy
Buck, Antony (Colchester) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Bullus, Sir Erie Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Gurden, Harold
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) MacArthur, Ian Silvester, Frederick
Harris, Reader (Heston) McMaster, Stanley Smith, John
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maddan, Martin Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vera Mawby, Ray Summers, Sir Spencer
Hastings, Stephen Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Temple, John M.
Heseltine, Michael More, Jasper Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Hiley, Joseph Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Tilney, John
Holland, Philip Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hordern, Peter Murton, Oscar Vickers, Dame Joan
Hornby, Richard Nabarro, Sir Gerald Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Hunt, John Neave, Airey Walters, Dennis
Hutchison, Michael Clark Nott, John Weatherill, Bernard
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Osborn, John (Hallam) Webster, David
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Page, Graham (Crosby) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Page, John (Harrow, W.) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Woodnutt, Mark
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Prior, J. M. L. Worsley, Marcus
Lane, David Pym, Francis Wright, Esmond
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Quennell, Miss J. M. Wylie, N. R.
Lloyd, lan (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Younger, Hn. George
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Royle, Anthony
Loveys, W. H. Sharples, Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
McAdden, Sir Stephen Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Mr. Timothy Kitson and Mr. Hector Monro.


That, during the remainder of the present Session.

(1) a motion may be made after ten of the clock by a Minister of the Crown, That the proceedings of this day's sitting be suspended, and the question thereon shall be decided without amendment or debate; and if the question be agreed to in the House, a motion may immediately thereafter be made, That this House do now adjourn, and, at the conclusion of the debate on that motion and in no case later than half an hour after the motion has been made, the motion shall lapse and Mr. Speaker shall suspend the sitting till ten of the clock on the following morning, or, if it be after midnight, till ten of the clock in the morning of the same day;

(2) if the question on a motion, made likewise in a Committee of the whole House, That the proceedings of the Committee be suspended, be so decided in the affirmative, the Chairman shall leave the chair and make a report to that effect, whereupon Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the question, That the proceedings of this day's sitting be suspended. and the House shall proceed thereon in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (1) of this Order, and, if the question be agreed to, a motion for the adjournment of the House may be made and the sitting shall afterwards be suspended as aforesaid; but, if that question be negatived, the House shall immediately again resolve itself into the Committee;

(3) on the resumption of the sitting the House shall forthwith resume the suspended proceedings and may afterwards proceed with the remaining business of the sitting which has been suspended: Provided that

  1. (a) on a Motion being made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House do now adjourn, Mr. Speaker shall put the question thereon forthwith; or
  2. (b) on the conclusion of the business Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without putting any question; or
  3. 332
  4. (c) if the business has not been concluded before two of the clock Mr. Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings at that hour, or, if the House be in committee, the chairman shall leave the chair and report progress and ask leave to sit again, and Mr. Speaker shall thereafter adjourn the House without putting any question.