HC Deb 12 November 1968 vol 773 cc343-62

10.0 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

I beg to move, That,—

  1. (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. (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. (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 and the debate or further consideration of the bill shall stand adjourned, 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.
    That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I explain that I intend to speak briefly and concisely to the Motion and that, if possible, at the end of the de bate my right hon. Friend the Deputy-Leader will reply to questions.

The purpose of the Motion is to continue and to convert into a Standing Order an experiment which we had last Session whereby it was possible for a sitting which might otherwise have continued very late at night to be suspended to the following morning. When the experiment was introduced at this time last year, a number of fears were expressed. Some of those fears were legitimate, though at times the language used was so extravagant that I imagine that those hon. Members concerned did not believe in their own exaggerated fears. Our experience of this procedure has helped to still those fears, as I think it is generally agreed to have been a success.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate against the background of conversation.

Mr. Peart

I always assume the hon. Members listen to me, Mr. Speaker, and I am grateful for your intervention.

Many of the fears rested on the fact that this procedure could be abused. I recognise that it could be abused, as indeed could any procedure of the House, but it has not been abused. That is due to the good sense of both sides of the House. In the first place, there were forebodings that the Opposition could so abuse the procedure as to frustrate business being done. They have not done so. I believe that they have had the good sense to realise that if they did so it would not be the Government but Parliament which would be brought into disrepute.

I claim, moreover, that the Government equally have shown good sense. They have not used this procedure—if I may use the term—wantonly and ill-advisedly but with regard to the interests of all sides of the House. I intend to continue to operate it in that spirit.

Last Session the Order was invoked six times only, and four of these occasions fell within a period of about 10 days when the House was under particular pressure. On those six occasions the use of the simple procedure enabled the House to avoid particularly late sittings and enabled its business to be completed at what most of us would consider a more businesslike and civilised time.

We have also to consider the staff. We have to consider not only our own position as Members but that of all those loyal servants of the House who help us to work efficiently and sensibly. The point of view of the staff is important. We have to consider the servants of the House and many others. We also have to remember that this matter is of interest not only to us who understand the need sometimes for all night sittings but also to people outside the House where that need is rarely understood. When our Parliamentary system is in question it is important that we should not increase unnecessarily the opportunities for misunderstanding. My personal view, as Leader of the House, is that as far as possible we should avoid sittings into the middle of the night and suspended sittings, too. Equally, however, I recognise that these are sometimes unavoidable if justice is to be done to the interests of hon. Members.

Some people nowadays sneer at ideals. I do not fall into that category. One of my ideals is to see virile Parliamentary democracy. For this we must do our work efficiently. I believe that the Motion contributes to that efficiency, and I therefore commend it to the House.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House made a reasonable speech, but he did not convince me and I doubt whether he convinced any of my hon. Friends. We opposed the Order when it was put forward as a Sessional Order. I will not reiterate the arguments then adduced, but I believe that we were right in our prognostications. The Order had all the demerits of a face-saving expedient after the massive flop of the Monday and Wednesday mornings sittings idea of the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). We said that the Order would not deter reasonable or unreasonable loquacity late at night, would not save the Government time and would cause grave inconvenience to a lot of people. I believe that we were right.

Let us look at the facts of the six occasions when the Order was invoked: at 1.5 a.m. on 27th February on the Public Expenditure and Receipts Bill, at 11.9 p.m. on 20th May on the Town and Country Planning Bill and the third, fourth and fifth occasions were on the Transport Bill in the early hours of 28th, 29th and 30th May, at 12.25 a.m., 12.50 a.m. and 1.32 a.m. respectively. The sixth occasion occurred at 2.35 a.m. on 24th July on the White Fish and Herring Subsidies Order.

On the argument that time was saved for the Government, what are the facts? On the first occasion it took three hours the next morning for the Government to get the Bill. On the second occasion it took three hours the next morning and, as for the argument that the use of the Order avoids late sittings, particularly at a busy time of the Session, it took from 11.10 p.m. to 6.40 a.m. two days later for the Government to get the Bill. On the sixth occasion it took 2 hours 35 minutes the next morning for the Government to complete the business in hand. In each case it took considerably longer to complete the work than it would have taken had the House gone on sitting at night. I therefore do not believe that it has saved time for the Government.

My second and more important argument is that I believe that it is an abuse of Parliament because hon. Members were not able to do their work properly either on other Committees or on the Floor of the House, and this was particularly the case when the Order was used for the third, fourth and fifth times on the Transport Bill. During the mornings to which the sittings were suspended, the Prices and Incomes Bill was in Standing Committee, as was the Race Relations Bill, and there was a Scottish Measure, the Social Work (Scotland) Bill (Lords) in Committee as well. There were no doubt other Committees going on in the House. The procedure was used to force through a guillotined Bill without all hon. Members being able to use even their restricted rights, and that was wrong.

The third argument, used very much by the right hon. Gentleman the former Leader of the House, was that the Order would be a deterrent. I just do not believe it for a moment. It was an example of the right hon. Gentleman's bad psychology. The House does not like to be threatened. I do not believe that it is a deterrent, and if it ever is regarded as a deterrent I do not think that it will be effective.

The fourth argument is very substantial, and it is that of inconvenience. A Standing Order of this nature, with no certainty as to when it will be used, causes the maximum inconvenience when it is used. The times at which it was invoked speak for themselves: 1.5 a.m.; 11.9 p.m.; 12.25 a.m.; 12.5 a.m.; 1.32 a.m. and 2.35 a.m. They speak for themselves.

This Order affects a great many people. First, it affects Ministers who have to run Departments and have arranged appointments or meetings. Perhaps I have not so much sympathy with them now as with former Governments. Secondly, it affects Members of Parliament, who want to speak or to move Amendments, or who have to be here to vote, or who have arranged meetings and other appointments. Then there are those who are sometimes forgotten, who have made arrangements to meet Ministers or Members—people who may have made special journeys for that purpose.

There is the great difficulty of the Press in giving a continuing picture of a debate, and they also face very great staffing problems.

Again, there are the doorkeepers—very loyal and hard working servants of the House, told without notice, for example, at 2.35 a.m. on 24th July that they must be on duty again at 10 o'clock the next morning. The police, who help hon. Members so much and so efficiently, are in the same difficulty.

There are the hard pressed officials of the House. There are the Official Reporters. If this sort of action is taken and the next day is a normal Committee morning, it means that up to 12 extra staff have to be procured literally in the middle of the night in order to conduct the official reporting of proceedings in Committees and the House. Finally, there are parties hoping to visit the House and to see this Chamber.

This is a very long list. It is an accumulation of inconvenience which is very formidable indeed, far outweighing the convenience of a few hon. Members who would rather go to bed somewhat earlier. And one must always remember that late sittings are usually the fault of Ministers who have been unreasonable with the House, or of those in charge of Government business who have overloaded the daily programme. I think that it is a scandal that the Government should contemplate even the possibility of inflicting all this trouble and disturbance on so many who work here. And, to add insult to injury, this is to be not just a Sessional Order, but a Standing Order of the House.

I am told that the Government have a three-line Whip tonight. I am not sure of that, I may be wrong, but it would be very odd if they had a three-line Whip on a Motion like this. Whether or not there is a three-line Whip, I hope that sufficient hon. and right hon. Members opposite who care for this House and its reputation will join with us in throwing out the Order.

10.7 a.m.

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

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) with his habitual kindness of heart described the speech of the Leader of the House as reasonable. I myself would describe it as pitifully inadequate to justify what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman who has been here a good many years, appreciates that to make a major change of this kind in the procedure of the House, affecting all hon. Members and, as my right hon. and learned Friend has said, the staff, simply by using a Government majority to push it through on a three-line Whip, without any degree of agreement, is a Parliamentary outrage. The right hon. Gentleman would have shown a little more respect for the House if he had appreciated this, and had tried to anticipate the many criticisms which will be forthcoming from my hon. Friends by at least putting up some case for a proposal of this sort. This he has manifestly failed to do.

The right hon. Gentleman deplored late sittings, but he knows better than any of us that the main causes of late sittings are either the incompetence or inflexibility of the Minister in charge of a Measure, or the action of the Government in overloading the Parliamentary programme. He knows perfectly well that the reaction to either of these from an Opposition is to keep the debate going. He knows that the main and best method of avoiding late sittings is not to overload the programme and for Ministers to show a certain willingness to meet the wishes of the House and a certain flexibility in debate. The right hon. Gentleman, as Leader of the House, ought to know this.

The outrage is made the worse when it is perpetrated on Parliament by a Government who have, and know they have, completely lost the backing of the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and when the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends know perfectly well that they have lost the support of the country. They know that they dare not face a General Election in which their numbers would be obliterated. [Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Chair needs no help. We are getting wide of the Order at the moment.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, of course, but in my respectful submission it is in order to suggest that a measure affecting the rights of Parliament which might be just acceptable from a Government who have the support of the country is absolutely intolerable from a Government who have lost it. But in deference to your Ruling, I will pass on.

The right hon. Gentleman has been long enough in this House to know that this proposal accentuates one of the main difficulties of Parliamentary life. He knows that hon. Members on both sides of the House suffer from the fact that in the ordinary way we know the business of the House only for a few days ahead. Therefore, all of us from time to time are forced by that business to cancel engagements which we have made, sometimes, many months before. So far as I know, there is no means of avoiding that. What the right hon. Gentleman proposes by this Standing Order makes the position very much worse.

It means that any time after 10 o'clock at night if a Minister indulges in a fit of petulance he can cause all hon. Members who in good faith have made arrangements for activities only a few hours ahead, for the next morning—or, if this happens at midnight, the same morning—to cancel those engagements, not only to the inconvenience of the hon. Members concerned but to people outside. There are engagements which hon. Members have in their constituencies to see and interview people. All these may have to be put off at a time when it is too late to notify the people concerned, simply because the Minister invokes this procedure in the middle of the night.

My right hon. and learned Friend described the adverse effect on the staff of the House who may leave early in the evening, their duties being over, expecting not to be back in uniform until half-past two of the afternoon on the following day and find they are suddenly warned in the middle of the night that they have to parade before 10 o'clock next morning. There is also your position, Mr. Speaker. Most of us realise the immense amount of work which falls on the occupant of the Chair, work outside and administrative decisions which fall to you, Sir. It is clear to all of us that you have important duties and appointments in the morning, all of which, I suppose, have to be sacrificed because some Minister fails to get his business through later tonight.

Some hon. Members take some care to allow themselves to be available for Standing Committees and to make sure that that work does not clash with their Parliamentary duties and with Measures with which they are concerned. All that goes for nothing if a Measure which has taken one afternoon and evening goes on the next morning and clashes with a Standing Committee on which they are serving next morning. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members may think this amusing, but some of us take our duties in respect of these Measures and attendance in Standing Committees seriously. It is outrageous that such carefully considered plans should be liable to disruption by action of this sort taken in the middle of the night.

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should have inherited this measure from his predecessor and should have made it worse by seeking to make it a Standing Order. Some of us at one time doubted whether we could have a worse Leader of the House than the present Secretary of State for Social Services. We have learned tonight from the right hon. Gentleman that we were wrong. It is perhaps not without significance that the Army once evolved a PIAT gun but had to abandon it because it was more dangerous to its friends than to its enemies.

10.16 p.m.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

I shall keep nobody out of bed tonight. What I have to say will take no more than about two minutes to say. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends agree with the view expressed by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) rather than with the view expressed by the Leader of the House. I agree with what the Leader of the House said about the importance of making the House appear in the eyes of the general public to be dignified and sensible in the way in which it conducts its business, but we should not be asked to do this merely by tinkering with one individual aspect of Parliamentary procedure. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I would be willing to co-operate in an experiment of this kind if we were to get something in return.

I belong to a small opposition party. It may well be that it will remain an opposition party for some time. It is true that the right to keep the Government out of bed at night and, indeed, to make life almost intolerable for an individual Minister is one of the few rights that an Opposition Member possesses. It is possible that hon. Members opposite will find themselves in opposition at some time. [Interruption.] I express no hope. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has undertaken to speak for two minutes. Noise will prolong the speech.

Dr. Winstanley

I am grateful, Sir. I make no predictions and express no hopes. I merely say that the time may arrive when hon. Members opposite will be glad that they still have the opportunity of keeping Government Front Bench members up at night. It is one of the few powers that they have.

A week in which the Government have come forward with proposals to truncate and amputate a Specialist Committee—that on agriculture—is not a time at which they should ask the Opposition parties to forfeit certain of their other rights. The right hon. and learned Mem ber for Wirral and the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) both expressed astonishment that there should be a three-line Whip. I see no cause for great surprise. There were three-line Whips on decimal currency and British Standard Time. It is not surprising that we should have a three-line Whip in this matter.

Earlier today—I assure you, Sir, that this is relevant to my argument—I listened to a debate on a Prayer to annul an Order concerning town and country planning. The Minister who replied to the debate failed to answer any of the points; he merely read his brief.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot continue a debate that is over.

Dr. Winstanley

I am grateful, Sir. The right to keep the Government up at night is one of the few weapons that an Opposition have to extract proper answers to their questions. I believe that I am free to pledge my party's support for comprehensive reforms of the procedures of the House, but I cannot pledge its support for a piecemeal reform which merely gives up one of the powers of opposition and gets nothing in return.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Rhodes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

I shall take not more than two minutes. It has been suggested by hon. Members opposite that it is extremely inconvenient for members of the staff and for Members of Parliament to be told at 10 or 11 o'clock at night that they have to be back here at 10 o'clock in the morning. That is true. But it is equally a valid argument to point out that for those hon. Members who may have travelled overnight in order to be here it is extremely inconvenient and unhealthy, to say the least, to be told at 10 or 11 o'clock at night that they will not go to bed that night at all.

It has been said that the cause of all the late-night sittings is the incompetence and inefficiency of the Government. That is not true. There have been all-night sittings whenever an Opposition have been annoyed and dissatisfied politically with a piece of legislation which the Government sought to introduce. That is all right. But then the argument runs that the Motion would deprive the Opposition of a great weapon in their hands. There are many ways of embarrassing a Government politically. If hon. Members opposite think that it does any great good in changing legislation, or that it does anything for the reputation of Parliament, in the eyes of the nation, to use such a weapon consistently, they are out of touch with their constituents.

This is an odd debate, particularly in the light of what people outside think about us. My constituents, when they hear about our staying up night after night without sleep, think that we are "crackers", and they are not far from wrong. We are tonight debating whether we should stop work at 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, or midnight and resume at a sensible time in the morning. The Opposition think that to do that, which is what everyone else in the nation does in their lives, would be some sort of criminal waste of public time and an offence against democracy. It only shows how little they know about public opinion.

10.27 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) does not even understand the Motion. The Opposition's argument is not about whether Parliament should rise at a certain time. Under the proposed Order, it could rise unexpectedly at the whim of the Minister. The hon. Gentleman spoke of hon. Members arriving by train and being here the night before. That raises one of our arguments against the Motion. When the Whips try to get a House for the following morning, the people who are here at midnight, one o'clock or two o'clock in the morning will be the ones whipped to be here at 10 o'clock to continue the debate, not the other Members because it would not be possible to get in touch with them.

As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Social Services knows, this was one of my criticisms when he brought in the original Sessional Order. His successor as Leader of the House worried me intensely tonight because, until now, I had thought that he tried to work the procedure of the House in co-operation with hon. Members, yet he is now bringing in a Motion, which was unpopular when it was first brought in and would not be carried on a free vote, and, not only that, he now intends to make it a Standing Order of the House. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said, it is an outrage.

Let us consider for a moment some of the hon. Members opposite below the Gangway. The idea seems to be that the proposed Standing Order would hit only the Opposition, and principally Opposition backbenchers. I ask the House to cast its mind back to the debate we had on judges' remuneration. That debate was very unpopular with the Front Bench, but many hon. Members opposite below the Gangway kept it going until 6 o'clock in the morning. They would not have been here making the same speeches the following morning at 10 a.m. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Let us see. If the Minister of the day had called a Closure at 1 o'clock in the morning, that would have been the end of the debate. In my view, the pressure put on the Government that night was the sort of pressure which backbenchers ought to put on the Government when they are spending money.

During last Session just as many sittings of the House were caused by the Government opposition on their own benches, if I may use that word to describe them, as were caused by the Opposition on this side of the House. All that the Sessional Order is designed to do is to reduce the amount of time available for those hon. Members on the Government side of the House to show their displeasure to the Government. Once the Government of the day have established this practice, not as a Sessional Order under trial but as a Standing Order of the House, let us see whether it is used with the same care as it was used in the last Session.

I guarantee that those hon. Members who are here tonight on the three-line whip and who will go into the Lobby to support the new Standing Order will, in the next couple of years, live to regret deeply their foolish action tonight.

10.31 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Silkin)

This has been an extremely interesting debate. We have been able to go over all the arguments that were made last year when the Sessional Order was introduced, with one significant difference, which is that we now know exactly what happens when one has a suspended sitting whereas last Session we were merely guessing; in other words, to quote the late Aneurin Bevan, "Why look in the crystal when we can read the book?".

The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) is nothing if not consistent. He gave us, with one exception, the same arguments in his speech this evening against the Motion before the House that he gave last Session. He mentioned, first, a subject that should be very large in the minds of all hon. Members. Last Session and this Session he said, quite rightly: is the inconvenience that we are causing to you, Mr. Speaker, to the police, to the staff, greater by the suspended sitting than it would have been otherwise? If that is so, this is a serious point to be considered and great weight should be given to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) made the same point.

My right hon. Friend, like his right hon. Friend the then Leader of the House, before him, has had consultations with the staff on this occasion to see what are their reactions. The House will recall that the Secretary of State for Social Services, then the Leader of the House, also inquired of the staff before last Session's debate, and they thought, on balance, that they might be in favour of the suspended sitting; they were not absolutely certain, but they felt that it might be a better way than continuing late night sittings.

I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the result of my right hon. Friend's researches on this occasion is that the staff in general believe that the suspended sitting has proved useful to them, and that they would prefer the experiment to continue.

Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)


Mr. Silkin

I used the word "experiment" because it was an experiment, but once an experiment has been converted into a Standing Order it ceases to be an experiment and becomes a practice of the House. I was dealing with the question of inconvenience to the staff, and I thought that I had answered it.

Another point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the previous occasion—and partly made then by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, and it was certainly made by him tonight, was the picture of either a "petulant", or "infuriated" Chief Whip coming in at three o'clock in the morning, finding the House still talking and moving for a suspended sitting.

There are many things that the present Government Chief Whip, his predecessors and his successors in the years to come, will have to their discredit, but petulance and getting infuriated are not to be numbered among them. In none of the six cases mentioned in the previous Session was the Motion to suspend the sitting moved in what might be termed the white heat of petulance, still less of infuriation, if that is the noun. On the contrary, they were all carefully considered and designed purely to help the House and to save the House from sitting abnormally long.

The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral made a strong point when he talked about the difficulty that Ministers would be under—and hon. Members, too—who had to work in the morning, either in their Departments if they were Ministers or in Standing Committees if they were back-benchers. I see the point. He gave the picture of the suspended sitting coming at night, of an hon. Member going to his Committee or a Minister to his Department at 10 o'clock and worrying because the House was sitting on the resumed business of the previous night. That is as may be. It is a good point. It is really the nub of the argument against.

It has, however, to be weighed with one other factor. While the right hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking, I took the trouble to jot down the figures of the times at which the House would have risen on the six occasions of which we have spoken if we had not moved the suspension of the sitting, and the times are as follows. [An HON. MEMBER: "Pure guesswork."] It is not guesswork, but calculation. The times would have been 4.45 in the morning on the first, 3.20 on the second, 3.30 on the third, 3.30 on the fourth, 3.40 on the fifth, and 5 a.m. on the sixth.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

That, surely, is on the assumption that as much time would have been used at night as was used the following morning.

Mr. Silkin

A very reasonable assumption. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may be forgetting that the Transport Bill, of blessed memory, was under a Guillotine at the time, and that the time allocated was identical in both cases. Under the Allocation of Time Order on the Transport Bill, it had already been decided that a certain number of hours after a late hour—I think, 10 o'clock, or 10.30—had to be given. That covers half the cases in time, so that the hours were identical.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The Guillotine was measured by hours. If the Government had wanted to avoid a late sitting, they would have given an extra day.

Mr. Silkin

They certainly could have given an extra day. They could give an extra day for every single item of legislation, and the result might well be that the House would be sitting 365 days out of 365. We do have limits, however, and I must confess that I had not heard or noticed the right hon. and learned Gentleman, or any other hon. Member on the benches opposite, complaining that we rose on 26th July this year. I saw no great signs of opposition to that and no attempts on the part of the benches opposite to make us sit into August.

So there we are. Those are the times until which Ministers, about whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman is very concerned, and quite rightly, and back benchers in Standing Committee, about whom he is equally concerned, and quite rightly, would have had to stay up at night before going back at 10 o'clock in the morning in the case of a back bencher, or whatever time a Minister goes to his office, usually at 9 o'clock or 9.30, after a sitting of that sort.

The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames thought that it was an outrage that we should have a suspended sitting for the benefit of a few Members who wanted to get to their beds early.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The words about getting to bed a few hours earlier were used by one of my hon. Friends. I did not introduce the element of beds. I did, however, say that it was an outrage—and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will deal with it, as he has challenged me on this—for the Government of the day to use their majority under a three-line Whip to force through a change of this kind as a Standing Order without agreement.

Mr. Silkin

I will deal with that in time.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

One man, one bed.

Mr. Silkin

I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for reading his mind rather than his words: somebody else's words, the right hon. Gentleman's mind, I think.

The point I wanted to make on this was that we should consider when suspended sittings were mainly used. They were on the Transport Bill, three times out of six, and the overwhelming majority of the House were so interested in that debate that they would have been here in any event. I do not think there can be very much doubt about that.

The right hon. Gentleman challenged me about my drawing the attention of the House to his use of the word "outrage". The right hon. Gentleman really takes me at a disadvantage, because he knows I am a great admirer, and always have been, of his rhetoric, of his party allegiance, and, if I may say so, of his extravagance: his extravagance of language always leaves me practically spellbound. I nearly said "speechless", but, obviously, that is not true tonight.

Any reform which this House has passed, going back to the Reform Bill of 1832, has been an outrage to its opponents. That is bound to be. It cannot really be an outrage for one section of the House to outvote—if that is what is to happen: I am not going to prejudge this—another section of the House. This is what we are used to. That is what the Division Lobbies are all about. I would be astonished if this were accounted an outrage in other circumstances. We, the Government, are using a democratic power. It cannot really be considered to be an outrage. The reason—

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The right hon. Gentleman confuses two things, the right of a majority to get its will on a public issue, such as the great Reform Bill which he mentioned, which is beyond dispute; and the lack of wisdom of a Government who, in a domestic matter of the procedure of the House of Commons, use their will and their majority to alter that, without any measure of agreement. These are two quite distinct things.

Mr. Silkin

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that they are distinct in the sense which he states. They are not distinct in the sense in which I was making my remark.

The plain fact of the matter is that this is a sensible reform. I make this

prophecy to the right hon. Gentleman: that in 20 or 30 years' time, when he and his hon. and right hon. Friends are sitting on this side of the House, they will be welcoming this reform, and welcoming it as strongly as, I hope, my hon. Friends will tonight.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 251, Noes 180.

Division No. 6.] AYES [10.44 p.m.
Abse, Leo English, Michael Ledger, Ron
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ennals, David Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Alldritt, Walter Ensor, David Lestor, Miss Joan
Allen, Scholefield Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Anderson, Donald Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lewis, Ron. (Carlisle)
Archer Peter Faulds, Andrew Loughlin, Charles
Armstrong, Ernest Fernyhough, E. Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Ashley, Jack Finch, Harold Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Atkinson Norman (Tottenham) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McBride, Neil
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) MacColl, James
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Ford, Ben MacDermot, Niall
Barnett, Joel Forrester, John Macdonald, A. H.
Baxter, William Fowler Gerry McGuire, Michael
Beaney, Alan Fraser, John (Norwood) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Bence, Cyril Freeson, Reginald Mackie, John
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Galpern, Sir Myer Mackintosh, John P.
Bidwell, Sydney Gardner, Tony McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Binns, John Garrett, W. E. McNamara, J. Kevin
Blackburn, F. Cordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Blenkinsop Arthur Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mallalieu,J.P. W.(Huddersfield,E.)
Booth, Albert Gregory, Arnold Manuel, Archie
Boston, Terence Grey, Charles (Durham) Mapp, Charles
Bottomley Rt. Hn. Arthur Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Marks, Kenneth
Boyden, James Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Marquand, David
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Bradley, Tom Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mayhew, Christopher
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hamling, William Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hannan, William Mendelson, John
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Harper, Joseph Mikardo, Ian
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Millan, Bruce
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Miller, Dr. M. S.
Buchan, Norman Haseldine, Norman Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Buchanan Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hazell, Bert Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test))
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Heffer, Eric S. Molloy, William
Cant, R. B. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Moonman, Eric
Carmichael, Neil Hilton, W. S. Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hobden, Dennis Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Chapman, Donald Hooley, Frank Morris, John (Aberavon)
Coe, Denis Horner, John Neat, Harold
Coleman, Donald Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Newens, Stan
Concannon, J. D. Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Norwood, Christopher
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Ogden, Eric
Crawshaw, Richard Howie, W. O'Malley, Brian
Crosland Rt. Hn. Anthony Hoy, James Orbach, Maurice
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Huckfield, Leslie Orme, Stanley
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Oswald, Thomas
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hunter, Adam Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Hynd, John Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Palmer, Arthur
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Panell, Rt. Hn. Charles
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Dell, Edmund Janner, Sir Barnett Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Dempsey, James Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pavitt, Laurence
Dewar, Donald Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pentland, Norman
Dickens, James Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W.Ham, S.) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Dobson, Ray Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Doig, Peter Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Judd, Frank Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Eadie, Alex Kelley, Richard Price, William (Rugby)
Edelman, Maurice Kenyon, Clifford Probert, Arthur
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lawson, George Rankin, John
Ellis, John Leadbitter, Ted Rees, Merlyn
Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W. Slater, Joseph Weitzman, David
Rhodes, Geoffrey Small, William Wellbeloved, James
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Spriggs, Leslie Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Robertson, John, (Paisley) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Whitaker, Ben
Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Whitlock, William
Roebuck, Roy Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Wilkins, W. A.
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Rose, Paul Swingler, Stephen Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Ross, Rt. Hn. William Thomas, Rt. Hn. George Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Rowlands, E. Thornton, Ernest Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Ryan, John Tinn, James Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Urwin, T. W. Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Sheldon, Robert Varley, Eric G. Winnick, David
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Woof, Robert
Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.) Wallace, George TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Watkins, David (Consett) Mr. Ernest G. Perry and
Silverman, Julius Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Mr. Ioan L. Evans.
Alison Michael (Barkston Ash) Glover, Sir Douglas Onslow, Cranley
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Glyn, Sir Richard Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Astor, John Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Gower, Raymond Page, Graham (Crosby)
Awdry, Daniel Grant, Anthony Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Grant-Ferris, R. Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Balniel, Lord Gresham Cooke, R. Percival, Ian
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Gurden, Harold Pounder, Rafton
Batsford, Brian Hall, John (Wycombe) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Prior, J. M. L.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Pym, Francis
Biggs-Davison, John Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Quennell, Miss J. M.
Black, Sir Cyril Hastings, Stephen Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Blaker, Peter Hawkins, Paul Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Heseltine, Michael Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Body, Richard Higgins, Terence L. Ridsdale, Julian
Bossom, Sir Clive Hiley, Joseph Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hill, J. E. B. Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Braine, Bernard Holland, Philip Royle, Anthony
Brewis John Hordern, Peter Russell, Sir Ronald
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hornby, Richard St. John-Stevas, Norman
Bryan, Paul Howell, David (Guildford) Scott, Nicholas
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angue, N&M) Hunt, John Sharples, Richard
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hutchison, Michael Clark Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Burden, F. A. Iremonger, T. L. Silvester, Frederick
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Sinclair, Sir George
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Jopling, Michael Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Carr Rt. Hn. Robert Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Channon, H. P. G. Kershaw, Anthony Speed, Keith
Chichester-Clark, R. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Stainton, Keith
Clark, Henry Kirk, Peter Stodart, Anthony
Clegg Walter Knight, Mrs. Jill Summers, Sir Spencer
Cooke, Robert Lancaster, Col. C. G. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Corfield, F. V. Lane, David Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Costain, A. P. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Crouch, David Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Teeling, Sir William
Cunningham, Sir Knox Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Temple, John M.
Currie, G. B. H. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Dalkeith Earl of Loveys, W. H. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Dance, James McAdden, Sir Stephen Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Dean, Paul MacArthur, Ian Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty) Wall, Patrick
Digby, Simon Wingfield Maginnis, John E. Walters, Dennis
Doughty, Charles Maude, Angus Ward, Dame Irene
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Mawby, Ray Weatherill, Bernard
Drayson, G. B. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Eden, Sir John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Miscampbell, Norman Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Errington, Sir Eric Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Eyre, Reginald Monro, Hector Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Farr, John Montgomery, Fergus Worsley, Marcus
Fisher, Nigel Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Wright, Esmond
Fleteher-Cooke, Charles Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wylie, N. R.
Fortescue, Tim Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Foster, Sir John Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Gibson-Watt, David Murton, Oscar Mr. Jasper More and
Giles, Rear-Adm, Morgan Nabarro, Sir Gerald Mr. Timothy Kitson.
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Neave, Airey
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
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