HC Deb 14 April 1969 vol 781 cc921-45

10.30 p.m.

The Chairman

We come now to the Motion in the name of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) to defer consideration of Clause 6.

Mr. Lubbock

On a point or order. Mr. Irving, during the Division that has just occurred, immediately after you said that in your opinion the matters dealt with by the Clause had been adequately discussed and you therefore proposed to put the Motion, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, I heard the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) say distinctly the word "biassed" indicating that in putting the Motion without allowing further discussion you were giving your favour to the Government and denying the opportunity of further debate to the Opposition. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman ought not to have made that remark, because it is a grave reflection on the Chair and that, since the remark was made within the hearing of all hon. Members, the hon. Gentleman should be required by you to withdraw it or, if he chooses to pursue the matter, should table a Motion in the usual way.

The Chairman

Order. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) for his help, but I do not wish to have the decisions of the Chair questioned one way or the other.

Mr. Peyton

Further to that point of order. In view of what the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has said—and I am sure that we are all very grateful to him for his guidance and help—I think I am entitled to say, Mr. Irving, that what the hon. Gentleman said was perfectly true. I did allow that observation to escape from me. I apologise to you unreservedly for having done so. It was a wrong thing for me to have said, and, in particular. I said it to the wrong person. In short, I allowed my feelings about the Bill, which I think are widely shared throughout the Committee, to overcome my personal views of respect for yourself.

The Chairman

I am most grateful for the hon. Gentleman's generosity. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, to move his Motion.

Mr. John Lee

On a point of order. Mr. Irvine, I wish to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. As Clause 5, which we have just dealt with, represents the end of a distinct phase of the Committee's work, and as Clause 6 concerns ecclesiastical representation in the other place, to which Clause there are many Amendments——

The Chairman

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman did not hear me correctly. I have not called the Clause or any Amendment to it. I have called the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames to move his Motion.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I beg to move, That consideration of Clause 6 be deferred until after consideration of Clause 15 of the Bill. Clause 6 deals with the peers spiritual. A considerable number of Amendments have been tabled to it. I suggest that it would be more convenient to the Committee if we dealt with that Clause after we have dealt with the block of Clauses which first finish off the provisions in respect of the composition and then go on to deal with the powers of another place. The reason which impels me to suggest that this might meet the convenience of the Committee is that the bishops, as I understand Clause 6, though reduced in number and reduced in voting power, will still number five voting peers. Those five are not included in the 30 cross-bench peers but are additional to them, though not part of any of the parties. Consequently, those bishops could play a decisive part in the closely balanced upper House contemplated by the Bill. In those circumstances, before we consider whether five is the right number to be voting peers, it is, in my submission, necessary that we should know the political voting record of the present peers spiritual.

For that reason—I am glad the Home Secretary is here—I wrote to the Home Secretary on 28th March raising this point and telling him what I had in mind. Perhaps I may read the letter: Parliament No. 2 Bill. One or two of us have today tabled a motion which proposes to defer consideration of Clause 6 of the Bill until after Clause 15. I was asked to write to you to explain why we were doing so and to give you advance notice of the point which we shall seek to raise. Clause 6 of course relates to the Bishops. As I understand the White Paper, those of the bishops who will retain voting rights under the Bill are to be treated as cross-bench peers for the purposes of the calculations on which, under the White Paper, appointments of voting peers are to be made. It is, however, the fact that certain of the present peers spiritual have definite political alignments. In order, therefore, to judge as to whether it is right to treat all voting peers spiritual as cross-bench peers, it seems to us to be necessary to obtain the voting records of the present peers spiritual in recent years. By voting records I don't, of course, mean the mere totality of votes cast by them. What would seem to be required is an analysis of the way in which the peers spiritual have voted, i.e. whether in favour of or against Government measures generally. There would seem to be no reason to doubt that the Government could obtain this information for us. But it may be that it would take a little time to collect, and it is for this reason that we suggest that consideration of the relevant clause should be postponed. The Home Secretary, with his habitual courtesy, replied: April, 1969"— The date is not precise. I realise that the Home Secretary has had a good many things on his mind recently, and I do not hold this against him. Thank you for your letter of 28th March and letting me know the reasons for your motion to postpone consideration of Clause 6. Your letter suggests that you may have misunderstood what the White Paper says about bishops. I find that rather wounding because I am interested in bishops. Bishops and law lords are included among the 'peers not in receipt of a party whip' for the purpose of the table on page 5"— I presume that means page 5 of the White Paper— but the five bishops who will have voting rights are not included in the figure of 30 cross-benchers, which is given in the paragraphs dealing with the initial size of the voting House or in the total figure of 230. For these reasons I do not see how your proposed analysis would be very much help to the Committee. I can, however, tell you that in the session 1965–66 three votes were cast by bishops on Government business, two of them for the Government and one against. This represented 0.4 per cent. of all votes cast on Government business. In 1966–67 12 votes were cast by bishops, 11 of them for the Government and one against; the proportion of all votes was 0.2 per cent. These figures show that the bishops vote very rarely indeed on Government business and the number of votes cast is too small for any other conclusion to be drawn from them. In the light of the above, I do not see how it would help the Committee to postpone consideration of Clause 6. I do not find the Home Secretary's conclusion entirely satisfactory. The desire is for information on this subject, and I do not want to recall to the Committee the amount of time that the Committee wasted, thanks to the dilatoriness of other Ministers in supplying the general voting records of the peers. I do not want to waste time on recalling the promises given and not carried out in a totally different document. That is why I took the trouble, which I hope the Committee will regard as courteous, to let the Home Secretary know in advance what was proposed.

As the right hon. Gentleman gave in his letter to me certain selected statistics of episcopal voting, it seems that it would not have given him much difficulty to collect the lot for which I asked. If the Committee accepts the Motion and puts our consideration of Clause 6 after Clause 15, then, despite the headlong speed with which the Bill is proceeding, a few hours may elapse in which the Home Secretary can meet us and take the necessary steps to supply the material which we require. I move the Motion for that reason.

Under the Bill the number of bishops eligible to vote will be five. But with a House constructed as proposed, with a majority for the Government over the other two parties and supposed to be balanced by 30 cross-benchers, five unattached votes may in certain circumstances be of considerable or even of decisive significance. It is not unreasonable, therefore, that before the Committee is asked to come to a decision we should know how the present episcopacy have voted on the major issues of Government policy. This is important because if we know that in respect of past years, we shall know it for a considerable number of years to come, since the episcopacy, I am glad to say, always seem to enjoy magnificent health and have a tendency towards longevity equalled only by that of the judiciary. Thus, if we know how the episcopacy have voted in the last few years, we shall probably know how they are likely to vote during the whole period for which the Bill is likely to last.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman do the work himself?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I was taught that the mark of the good administrator was the ability to delegate. There is the Home Secretary with nothing to do save to attend the National Executive of the Labour Party—where he makes a fool of himself—so I thought that it would be convenient to give him some work which actually had something to do with the Bill which he is nominally promoting in the House. That is my answer to the hon. Gentleman.

In all seriousness, figures in these matters are generally supplied by the Government of the day. They have the advantage of large staffs, which those of us in opposition do not have, and they can and often do serve the Committee by providing figures.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)

My right hon. Friend's task would have been easy. The figures have been supplied to me by the Library. It would have been simple for my right hon. Friend merely to inquire of the Library for the figures, and they would have been supplied to him as they were supplied to me.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am infinitely obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It seems that the Home Secretary has been even more unhelpful than I thought. If the figures could have been obtained so easily, it would have been better if the right hon. Gentleman, having had a request made over a fortnight ago, had provided them all instead of selecting two.

In all seriousness, when a Committee engaged on legislation wishes to have some figures, it is much better and more reliable if we have them provided officially by Ministers who have official staffs to support them rather than allow even the most industrious hon. Member to make private calculations which may turn out to be wrong. The point of the last intervention, as I understand it, is that what the Home Secretary has refused to do would have been a matter of little trouble for him with his official staff.

An unwillingness on the part of the Minister to supply material when asked for it in this way is not a helpful approach to the conduct of a Bill. It may be, therefore, that it is well in character with the way in which the Home Secretary, when he is here, does conduct the Bill.

10.45 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

As the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) says that he is speaking in all seriousness, I shall treat his remarks precisely in that manner, and, naturally, I assume that he means what he says. I think that he is falling into a logical fallacy. It is not proper, as he well knows from his experience at the Treasury, to extrapolate certain trends from the past and assume that they will persist in the future. He falls into a very great error when he thinks that because we know how certain individuals voted in the past we know how they will vote in the future.

For example, there are interesting combinations in this Chamber. But if I were to deduce that because the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has voted in a particular way with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) over the past few weeks they will continue to vote in exactly the same way over the next few months, I think I should be very mistaken. I am sure my hon. Friend agrees with me.

Therefore, I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to assume that a simple extrapolation of votes cast for or against the Government in the past is likely to give him very much indication of how the bishops are likely to vote in the future. In case the Committee has not heard the figures, it will appreciate the seriousness and significance of this point when I repeat the figures I gave the right hon. Gentleman. Throughout the whole Session 1965–66 the bishops between them, on every issue of Government business, cast three votes. Two were for the Government and one was against. I should find it very interesting to extrapolate that curve to deduce how the bishops are likely to vote in the future.

I have indicated to the right hon. Gentleman that in the whole of the Session 1966–67, on every Amendment, every substantive Motion and every Division on Government business, all 26 bishops—all the jolly boiling of them—cast 12 votes between them, of which 11 were for the Government and one was against. That represented 0.2 per cent. of all the votes cast.

I know the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to make progress with the Bill, and therefore does not wish to hold us up tonight. I am convinced that with his usual clarity of thought and his desire to see the logical weakness of his own case he will acknowledge that 0.2 per cent. of votes cast in one Session and 0.4 per cent. in another are hardly likely to be supremely influential in determining what will happen in the future, especially as it is not possible logically to deduce the way in which these votes will be cast. Therefore, as I have now given him the figures—

Mr. Lubbock

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us how the bishops voted on the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968?

Mr. Callaghan

If the hon. Gentleman cared to write to me on that I should be glad to answer his question. My guess would be that they voted against. That would probably account for a large proportion of the 12 votes cast in the whole Session. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman; he illustrates my point that one has to select each issue. There is no pattern of voting. It is quite clear that the bishops between them have been casting such an infinitesimal proportion of votes that their votes will have no influence.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's desire to proceed with the Bill, I hope that he will accept the figures I have given, admit that they can have no influence on the course of our deliberations and withdraw his Motion so that we may proceed to consider Clause 6 in detail.

Mr. Hastings

On a point of order, Mr. Irving. Is it in order for the Home Secretary to refer to the lords spiritual as a "jolly boiling"? Is this not rather an unfortunate precedent for the debate?

The Chairman

Order. That may be so, but it is not out of order.

Mr. Powell

If the Home Secretary had been able to be present at rather more of our deliberations on the Bill than has been possible to him, the one thing he would never attack is extrapolation. For hour after hour in our debates we have been extracting the fact that the Government's whole scheme for a new Chamber is based upon extrapolation, and almost entirely extrapolation, if that be the correct mathematical description, from one instance, namely, the last complete Session of Parliament. The intricate figures adding up to 230 and the figure of 230 itself, are derived from the average attendance figure in the last Session of Parliament.

That is the scheme put forward by the Minister who has just attacked my right hon. Friend for illogicality in being disposed to extrapolate from the past. The right hon. Gentleman himself, who is giving about as much attention to the proceedings of the Committee now as he does on the rare occasions when he is present, which amounts to the same attention as when he is absent, supplied the Committee at an earlier stage with detailed figures of the number of peers by succession who would need to become life peers, figures which were derived mathematically from the experience in the last Session of the actual attendances, as set out in the table on page 5 of the White Paper.

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Social Services at an earlier stage in our proceedings gave particulars of attendance for the last two Sessions, and this led to the expression of interest in the longer-term record of attendance in the upper House, very much stimulated by the researches of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), which were eventually the cause of the production to the Committee of the last five years' attendance records in another place.

You will no doubt recall, Mr. Irving, that when those figures were produced they showed a very interesting and significant trend. It was a trend which by no means supported the deductions which the Government were drawing from the single case of the Session 1967/68. It is, therefore, no use whatsoever for the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in a tirade against extrapolation to say that the Committee has no interest in the longer-term voting record of the bishops. Of course, we cannot directly draw deductions as to what would be the consequences in the future Chamber from the experience of the last five years, but we should be a good deal better off and in a better position to judge if we had those figures.

A very interesting and possibly important intervention was made just now by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson). His intervention struck a chord which I am sure vibrated deeply in the memory of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne and others of us who have lived through these proceedings. He said that these figures were available in the Library. This was where we came in on a previous occasion, and you may recollect, Mr. Irving, that we discovered that, although figures about attendance and behaviour of noble lords in another place might be available in the Library, they could not be provided to hon. Members of the Committee for the purposes of their deliberations upon the Bill without an elaborate procedure being gone through, a Motion being moved in another place and a considerable time elapsing.

It would, therefore, appear to follow that if we are to be provided in this Committee with the information which my right hon. Friend desiderates, it is no use just saying, "Oh, it's in the Library; you can go and look it up." We know from experience in this Committee that if these figures are to be available for the purposes of our debates then we have formally to request them from the Government, time has to be allowed to elapse, and then, if persuasion is more effective and more speedy than on the previous occasion, we may get them.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to make one minor correction. He says that the figures are available in the Library; the figures are available from the Library on request. I applied to the Research Department for these figures to be provided. They were sent to me last week.

Mr. Powell

I am not surprised by that. Either this is a nightmare and we are going round and round, or I have heard almost exactly those words, only from one bench lower down. I dare say that the figures are available in the research department on request, but we know how the story goes on from there. It is that if the hon. Gentleman who says that he would like to consult the figures says that he would like to use them in the Chamber, they are immediately snatched away from him and he is told that they are confidential and that we shall have to have a Resolution in another place and a White Paper.

That innocent but still helpful intervention by the hon. Gentleman shows how necessary and well-founded was my right hon. Friend's Motion. He has reminded us that information for the use of the Committee, the statistical background of the other place, is not easily come by unless the Committee duly and formally requests it. The hon. Member's intervention therefore added great force to the request embodied in my right hon. Friend's Motion.

My right hon. Friend has under-estimated the potential significance of the bishops' vote in the proposed new House of Lords and, consequently, his case is even stronger than he has made out. He said that in the new Chamber there would be five voting bishops. That is not quite correct. I apprehend that there will be at least five voting bishops because Clause 5(1) is applied by Clause 6(4) to the two archbishops and the three senior bishops, who will automatically be voting bishops, but Clauses 2 to 4 as applied by Clause 6(4) provide that any number of other bishops may put in a voting declaration to qualify themselves as voting members of the new Chamber. Therefore, as the Bill stands, there would be a minimum of five but a theoretical maximum of 16 voting bishops.

Consequently, the potential impact upon the structure underlying the Bill of Clause 6 as it stands is even larger than my right hon. Friend said. It is therefore all the more important for the Committee to have the statistical background which will enable us perhaps not to be certain of the behaviour of the lords spiritual in the new Chamber but at any rate to be in a better position to form opinions of it.

There is a very strong reason for not relying upon the experience of one or two years in this matter. We ought to consider a period of five or ten years. In a interchange between the Home Secretary and the spokesman for the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock)—he has gone again—it was elicited that the high voting record in a relatively large number of Divisions in a particular Session on the side of the Government might have been due to the particular business in that Session. All the more important is it that we should have a survey of a number of Sessions to have a deeper background and more information on the past behaviour of the Bench. From that we have got not to extrapolate in the mechanical sense but to get information on the past as our only material for forming some view of the likely future.

11.0 p.m.

The probability is that in a future House of much smaller numbers, the attendance, assiduity and significance of any given element will be much larger than it is at present. The mere numerical comparison which the Home Secretary trotted out is extremely misleading.

At the moment we have a House of Lords of over 1,000 members, and in that House the relative significance of a particular group is very small, but we are engaged in constructing a small voting House of 230 and we are told in the White Paper, and by implication in the Preamble, and by even more remote implication in the Bill, that the 230-member House will be constructed in a carefully balanced manner, so carefully balanced a manner that the Government, disregarding cross-benchers, who do not, for this purpose include bishops or law lords, will have a majority of only 10, so nice is the balance of this new Chamber to be.

When we are constructing a new Chamber, and judging each new element we put in, and we are deciding to put 16 prelates into this new Chamber, we are entitled to all the information we can be given on the likely affiliations and voting habits of 16 prelates.

Mr. Iremonger

The right hon. Member, in saying that there will be this nice balance under paragraph 48 of the White Paper, is assuming a voting House of 230 on the basis of the balance of parties here in the present Parliament, but, of course, in a Parliament in which the parties were more closely balanced here, they would be even more closely balanced in the upper House.

Mr. Powell

That is so, and therefore we cannot be regarded as being guilty of any lack of seriousness in desiring to understand how this scheme, for the sake of which all this legislation is being undertaken, would work if we were to legislate Clause 6 into the Bill as it now stands. My right hon. Friend understated the case for this Committee not to proceed to Clause 6 until we have the maximum information which can be supplied, if necessary with the permission of another place, on the past voting records and affiliations of the present lords spiritual.

Mr. Michael Foot

I cannot help thinking that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was a little hasty in his rejection of this Motion. He might have considered it a little more deeply and he might then come to a different conclusion, although I am willing to acknowledge that there are arguments on both sides.

If it was my right hon. Friend's intention to assist in the speedy passage of this Bill—and none of us is quite certain that it is his intention to proceed with the speedy passage—in the tactical sense it would have been better for him just to have got up and said "Yes". If that had occurred we would now be discussing—

Mr. Callaghan

Points of order.

Mr. Foot

—not points of order but Clause 7. My right hon. Friend has obviously not noted the way in which we have proceeded today with very few points of order.

Had my right hon. Friend accepted the Motion of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames nothing would have been lost, the Government would have acted graciously and the Committee could have proceeded with the Bill, later to return to Clause 6. Presumably my right hon. Friend regarded the claim of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames as derisory.

Mr. Callaghan


Mr. Foot

His tone, if not his words, suggested that. His every nod and wink must be observed. We know my right hon. Friend well.

There may be a stronger argument against the Motion than the one my right hon. Friend used. I suspect it to be that if we are to have the voting record of the bishops presented to the country—not merely a record of their attendances but a record of how they voted on political matters—it would be invidious not also to have the voting record of the Law Lords, particularly since the laughable claim was made earlier that the Law Lords were not politically motivated. We should not discriminate against the bishops and have their voting record and political affiliations laid bare and not apply the same reasoning to others.

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)

Are not the voting records of hon. Members of the House of Commons when serving on Committees equally relevant?

Mr. Foot

That may be of some relevance, but I would be out of order if I answered my hon. Friend. Suffice for the moment to say that if the voting record and political affiliations of the bishops are to be made public, the same should apply to the Law Lords and others. In an earlier discussion we dealt with some of the advantages which are to be allowed to the Law Lords under these proposals. If we had the information that would be a further reason for dealing with that question afresh on Report.

I support what the right hon. Gentleman said, because I believe that we should have all these figures available. They can easily be secured, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson), who has greatly assisted the Committee in this matter. All that the Home Secretary needed to say in order that business should proceed was the simple word "Yes". Why did he not do it?

There seems to be some disease of obstinacy which is affecting the Government over the whole of the Bill. They take their stand firmly on each subsection, each Clause, each part of the Bill. They say that they will not concede a single inch, and then they have to concede it. Indeed, not only do they concede an inch but the whole territory is apparently to be conceded at some later date, though that happy announcement has not yet been made.

I cannot understand why the Government when confronted with a simple request of this nature should have been so obstinate about it and said, "No, we are determined to proceed in exactly the form in which we have previously indicated, and we will not concede a single inch to any reasonable proposal."

As for the bishops, we seem to have a somewhat larger attendance than has been the case up to now. All those who have bishops in their constituencies who are expecting prospective advantages seem to be assembled here. I am not sure what the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) is doing. He has been hanging around the place for weeks, which is a further conclusive reason for postponing the debate. In fairness to the hon. Gentleman, I am sure that he would be eager to win his victory by silence rather than by sheer powers of oratory.

I have no particular interest in the bishops. The bishops, like the shepherds, should be watching their flocks. If they did, they might have a visitation from the angels and glory might shine all around. To judge from the figures which were given by my right hon. Friend, many bishops have been watching their flocks. It is better that they should be left undisturbed to do so. In order to ease the situation, I do not think we should proceed with the debate.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

My hon. Friend is being extremely unfair to the bishops, because he has accepted at face value the right hon. Gentleman's figures and the deductions which the Home Secretary drew from them. On occasion it is not unknown in the other place, as it is not unknown here, for some Members to abstain from voting, even after having listened to a winding-up speech from the Front Bench. The Home Secretary ought to know that there are many issues, wrongly described as secular issues by those of the bishops who are Manicheans, on which bishops prefer not to vote. They may contribute their influence in debate without voting.

Mr. Foot

My hon. Friend has clearly illustrated the difficulties in which we will be plunged if we proceed in this debate without the fullest evidence on all sides. I approach these matters not merely in a secular spirit but in an Erastian spirit. I wish to see a subordination of the bishops to the popular electorate. That is one definition of Erastian.

11.15 p.m.

There is a further reason that it would be most inadvisable for us to proceed with the debate about the bishops tonight. All of us know that it is perfectly possible that this Bill will not be proceeded with. There have been discussions continuing; there have been statements in the Press; Mr. Walter Terry, I think it was, in the Daily Mail on Saturday morning had much to say on these matters—where he gets his information none of us would care to speculate just at this moment. But this matter has been widely discussed in the Press. It has been said that this Bill is going to be dropped. I think that that is extremely likely. This discussion is a sheer waste of time; many of us think the whole thing has been a waste of time; but this will be even more a waste of time if we are only playing out time just till we draw stumps: rain stops play, I believe, at 11.30.

Now if this is the situation it would be most invidious that we should start a discussion on the bishops, a discussion in which many harsh words inevitably will be said from those who take a secular or Erastian point of view. Many harsh words will be said. The hon. Member for Wimbledon would drown us all in a flood of Baptist eloquence. The whole place would be turned upside down. We might have a situation in which one might wonder—not merely about the strains between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, strains which have been emerging in all our discussions on the Bill—whether even the whole ecclesiastical fabric of the State would be shaken. Indeed, we all know that there is a commission sitting at this moment—I am not quite sure what it is called, and I am not sure who sits on it, and I am not sure what it is seeking to discover—but there is a commission, I understand, on which highly placed ecclesiastics are discussing the whole future relationship of the State and the Church. We are eagerly awaiting its report. How unwise it would be for this Committee to proceed to discuss the position of the bishops in the second Chamber at a time when we have not had the wisdom of that commission whose names I cannot remember. What a pity it would be.

Therefore I urge upon my right hon. Friend to think again on the whole of this question. I ask him, in the interests of this Bill itself, in the interests of the speedy passage of the Bill, I ask him in the interests of orderly debate, and, above all, I ask him to accede to this Motion in the interests of the bishops themselves. Nothing could be more wasteful and injurious than a debate which would be directed to no end in the sense that it would fructify in any Bill produced from it. There would be no result from this debate. We would merely have a free for all in which wild, extravagant speeches would be made by the hon. Member for Wimbledon, pouring scorn on those who seek to serve their God by their own methods. I think we must avoid this peril at all costs. Therefore I appeal for the united support of this Committee in making sure that the speech of the hon. Member for Wimbledon shall be postponed to another day.

Mr. Peyton

I do not think anyone in the Committee—with the exception of the Front Benches, of course—would wish to do anything but endorse the very eloquent and restrained request which has just been addressed by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) to the Home Secretary.

I feel the whole Committee should pause for a moment to wonder whether we are being fair to the Home Secretary. After all, he has come in here; he has brought almost an entirely fresh mind to bear on the problems of the Bill—

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Very fresh.

Mr. Peyton

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend, who says that the state of mind of the Home Secretary is very fresh. I do not feel able to speculate upon such a metaphysical state of affairs, because I do not know any details of the ordeal through which the Home Secretary has recently been passing. I feel that perhaps sufficient expression has not been given to the sense of gratitude and indebtedness which many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee feel that the Home Secretary has come here at this time of the night—very late indeed—and brought to bear his almost unprejudiced and innocent mind on the Bill with which others of us are so contrastingly familiar.

The right hon. Gentleman's intervention did, however, somewhat diminish my gratitude. After all, he comes along with what any charitable person would recognise as the rather faded laurels of the Treasury still clinging to his brow and he says that extrapolation is a dangerous exercise. There are many people from whom I should be prepared to learn that lesson, but I do not wish to be offensive to the Home Secretary when I say that he would be very low on my list, particularly in view of the forthcoming events of tomorrow. One is horribly aware that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is the last person to warn the Committee about the way in which prophecies should be made and the bases on which forecasts should be formed.

The right hon. Gentleman has so far been unable to help us, and I find it astonishing that he should come to the Committee and say, quite solemnly, that though we have asked for information it is of no use to us. This is one of the very few things that should be left to Oppositions to judge. It is not for the Executive to tell the Committee of the House of Commons what information will be useful to it. It is clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said, and from what others have said, that the information asked for, whether useful or not, is easily available. I find the mixture of arrogance and sauce with which the Treasury Bench reject such simple requests quite intolerable.

I should like now to address a few remarks to another quarter, and that is to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) who, unlike the Home Secretary, commands my unbounded admiration and loyalty. We all understand that my right hon. and learned Friend may feel under some constraint in expressing any views about the substance of the Bill, but here we have a procedural Motion upon which his guidance would be almost invaluable.

At the moment I lean heavily towards the opinions expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) in moving the Motion, but it would have an almost decisive effect if my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom were to break his chaste silence and give the Committee the benefit of his wise and learned advice. I very much hope that he will do so, because I pay him no compliment when I say that it would be vastly more useful, more original, and more profound than any prospects that we are likely to enjoy from anybody on the Treasury Bench, whether the Under-Secretary, who must be exhausted by his experiences there, or the Home Secretary who, although he comes fresh to the Bill, nevertheless has nothing very profound to offer.

Mr. Driberg

I support most of what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said, particularly his mention of the high-powered Church and State Commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It probably will not report for some months, but I imagine that these debates will still be in progress, and it would seem only common sense to wait for the views of the Commission before proceeding with any matter affecting the episcopal members of the House of Lords.

My hon. Friend touched on a very grave point when he said that this might affect the whole relations of the Church and State. The presence of the bishops in the House of Lords, whether we like it or not, is one of the pivotal aspects of the establishment of the Church of England. It is a great mistake to tamper seriously with one of those aspects unless one is prepared to take a look at the whole question of establishment and perhaps consider what many of my hon. Friends would like—the disestablishment of the Church of England. That is a much broader question than the Bill, because it embraces so many other aspects—whether the Archbishop of Canterbury should still have the privilege of crowning the monarch, if it be a privilege, whether bishops and other dignitaries of the Church should be appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Prime Minister—

Mr. Iremonger

What does the hon. Gentleman mean by questioning whether it is a "privilege" of the Archbishop to crown the monarch? Surely he means it the other way around—that it is a privilege for the monarch to be blessed by the Archbishop?

Mr. Driberg

That is a nice point. It is a weighty duty which may be regarded also as a privilege by some of those who have had to undertake it through the centuries. Many of us will recall how the aged Archbishop Lang's hands trembled in the film of the coronation of George VI.

It is all very well Ministers coming here and lecturing us about the episcopacy and making cheaply insulting remarks about the bench of bishops, as the Home Secretary did—I am sure that he did not mean to but was just talking in his colloquial way off the cuff—but they are not experts on the Church of England or its episcopacy. Only one hon. Member may claim some expertness in this field—the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu). He is not in his place tonight, wherever his place is. The debate should not proceed until we have the benefit of his advice. He can at least give us some idea of what is in the mind of the Church of England—if that is not a misnomer—on this point.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

I hope that the Home Secretary, who has been listening to the debate for a remarkably long time for his august presence, must be moved by the appeals from all sides, in the most reasoned and affectionate manner, asking him to reconsider his rather hasty judgment in not accepting the Motion. It seems eminently reasonable from what we have heard from all sides of the Committee that the Motion should be accepted.

11.30 p.m.

Perhaps I might rehearse some of the points which have been made. First, the point so admirably made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) about the practicalities of the Government's present position. This is bound to be a heated debate, because people feel strongly about the position of the bishops in the other place. Therefore, it seems wise that this should be avoided until the Government have decided whether they propose to proceed with the Bill. This is a valid point.

The most important point, which has been taken up by all sides of the Committee, was the remark of the Home Secretary that, in his view, extrapolation could never be the basis for any form of argument. This, coming from a distinguished ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, a man versed—I nearly said worst—in statistics, who must know that there can be no projection without an initial extrapolation. Obviously the whole of any statistical record, any projection, must be based on the deduction of the extraction of these figures from the record.

The main point—and it was well touched on by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg)—is not the extrapolation but the projections which come from these bases or statistics. The point made by the hon. Gentleman was that the bishops in the other place do not necessarily vote. The great importance of the bishops, the lords spiritual, to the assembly of their Lordships' House is that their influence should not be by their votes but by what they say. What we want far more perhaps than what my right hon. Friend has suggested is an exegesis of their speeches over the last ten years. This would put the extrapolators, these hundreds of men working in the Home Office, to some good purpose at last. Perhaps they will get in some of the tax gatherers who will be unemployed and employ a large number of civil servants in carrying out this interesting historical research.

We should have at the minimum what my right hon. Friend has demanded. We should have an impression, over the last five or even ten years, how the lords spiritual have voted and, what is more, we should have the Second Church Commissioner here to give us a run down on what their general attitudes are. This is vitally important. When so evenly balanced a constitution as the two Front

Benches envisaged is embarked upon, which could mean five or even, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) suggested, if Clause 4(4) applies, as many as 16 reverend bishops voting in another place, then the situation becomes even more serious.

Surely at this late hour it is up to the Home Secretary, in view of what hon. Members on all sides have said, to accept the Motion, to pass on from this Clause, and to return to it when sufficient information has been laid before the Committee for a proper and even more serious discussion than we have had tonight.

Dr. Miller rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes, 92, Noes 49.

Division No. 158.] AYES [11.35 p.m.
Alldritt, Walter Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony O'Malley, Brian
Archer, Peter Grey, Charles (Durham) Oram, Albert E.
Baxter, William Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Oswald, Thomas
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Hannan, William Parker, John (Dagenham)
Bidwell, Sydney Harper, Joseph Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Pentland, Norman
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Rees, Merlyn
Carmichael, Neil Hoy, James Robertson, John (Paisley)
Coe, Denis Hynd, John Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Coleman, Donald Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Concannon, J. D. Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Small, William
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Judd, Frank Taverne, Dick
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Loughlin, Charles Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Dempsey, James Lubbock, Eric Tinn, James
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John McBride, Neil Urwin, T. W.
Dunnett, Jack McCann, John Varley, Eric G.
Eadie, Alex MacColl, James Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ellis, John Macdonald, A. H. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Ennals, David Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Whitlock, William
Ensor, David McNamara, J. Kevin Wilkins, W. A.
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Fernyhough, E. Marks, Kenneth Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Foley, Maurice Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Forrester, John Millan, Bruce
Fraser, John (Norwood) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Freeson, Reginald Morris, John (Aberavon) Dr. M. S. Miller and
Galpern, Sir Myer Murray, Albert Mr. Alan Fitch.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Carlisle, Mark Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Crouch, David Hastings, Stephen
Black, Sir Cyril Crowder, F. P. Heffer, Eric S.
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Cunningham, Sir Knox Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Booth, Albert Dalkeith, Earl of Kaberry, Sir Donald
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Driberg, Tom Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Eyre, Reginald Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Marten, Neil Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Monro, Hector Ridsdale, Julian Waddington, David
Neave, Airey Russell, Sir Ronald Ward, Dame Irene
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Ryan, John Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Sharples, Richard
Peyton, John Sheldon, Robert TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Silvester, Frederick Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke and
Pym, Francis Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Mr. T. L. Iremonger.
Ramsden, Rt Hn. James Smith, John (London & W'minster)

Whereupon The CHAIRMAN declared that the Question was not decided in the Affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 32 (Majority for Closure).

Question again proposed, That consideration of Clause 6 be deferred until after consideration of Clause 15 of the Bill.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again—[Mr. Callaghan]—put and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.

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