§ Mr. Speaker
I should like to make two observations before we begin the debate. First, I have not selected any of the Amendments. The first two are in the name of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis):
In line 3, at end insert:'and the statements made by the hon. Member for West Ham, North, that in London and other large industrial cities approximately 20 per cent. of vehicle owners are at present evading the payment of their vehicle excise duty'.In line 3, at end insert:'and the statements made by the hon. Member for West Ham, North, that as a means of preventing the continuing evasion of the excise duty Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer has decided to abolish this means of raising revenue and in his next budget will recoup the same from increasing the petrol duty'.The second two are in the names of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) and the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison):
In line 9, leave out from second 'place' to 'and' in line 10.
In line 12, at end add:'That it be an instruction to the Committee that they should conduct all their proceedings in public'.Secondly, no fewer than 35 hon. and right hon. Gentlemen wish to speak in the two debates which we are to hold today. I therefore urge hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to make their comments reasonably brief.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I beg to move,That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into, and report on, statements made by the hon. Member for South Worcestershire relating to the alleged disclosure of information and documents concerning Vehicle Excise Duty'.It gives me no pleasure to move the Motion. I deeply regret the circumstances which have made it necessary. I intend, therefore, to take up as little time of the House as possible.
I shall not spend long on the history of the past week or so, which is well 886 known to hon. Members. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) claimed to have seen documentary proof—what he called "irrefutable evidence"—that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to raise vehicle Excise duty in the forthcoming Budget. On Monday, my right hon. Friend explained in the most categorical terms how such documentary proof could not exist.
In these circumstances, some hon. Members have suggested—as the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) did on Thursday—that my right hon. Friend's explanation should simply be accepted as disposing of the allegations once and for all. It would certainly be my hope, and, I believe, the hope of the overwhelming majority of the House, that this should be so. But the fact is that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has refused to do so.
Instead, the hon. Member repeated his charges and made fresh ones. Beside the two printers who, he claims, showed him secret documents, reporters at a Press conference claim that he said he was given information of a budgetary character by Treasury officials. More generally, he has spoken about print being broken up and directors of printing firms getting together to conceal the truth. But at no stage has he attempted to substantiate his claim to "irrefutable evidence". All he has disclosed is—I think the hon. Member's words were—"obvious tittle-tattle".
Here may I interject that I think that many hon. Members will share my feeling that, if the hon. Gentleman saw prima facie evidence of a Budget leak, it would have been more consonant with the traditions of the House if he had put the facts before my right hon. Friend, or the right hon. Gentleman opposite, rather than use it as a means of personal publicity.
Despite this lack of evidence, there would undoubtedly be those who, if the Government did nothing, would claim that we had something to hide. I have an idea that among that number would be some of those now urging us to drop the inquiry. But even this would not be decisive in considering whether to have an inquiry. All Governments at times have to ignore cheap charges of this sort. Indeed, if all we wanted was a quiet life, that is what we could do in this instance. 887 I think that the nine-days' wonder would soon be over.
What makes inevitable a further inquiry is the nature of the allegations. Rumours about possible Budget changes are inevitable at this time of year. Open lobbying by interested parties in favour of their particular interests is a natural feature in a democracy. But the hon. Member's allegations do not fall into these categories. They are allegations involving improper behaviour by specific, though unnamed, people.
This is not a question of an over excessive show of dignity by the House, or of the rough-and-tumble of politics. Hon. Members on both sides know that I am not concerned with excessive dignity, nor do I shrink from the rough-and-tumble of politics. But to make such allegations, to refuse to substantiate them or to withdraw them when they are categorically denied, affects the fundamental quality of our public life. Perhaps the hon. Member wants to be able to say, if the Excise duty does not go up in the Budget, "I knew there was nothing in it, but this was the best way to scare them off putting the tax up".
But if this is so it would be a sad reduction in the standard of public conduct if we were to accept that an hon. Member could pursue ends he considers legitimate by making serious unfounded allegations against other people. On the other hand, if the hon. Member has been shown papers purporting to be tax changes, he has been the victim of a hoax or a conspiracy. In either case, the House and the country need to know the truth.
For all these reasons, therefore, the Government feel that an inquiry is needed The fact that it is necessary will bring no pleasure to anyone; but it is essential if we are to maintain our public standards. And so my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday the Government's intention to set up an inquiry.
If there has to be an inquiry, the next question is the form it should take. In practice, the choice is narrowed to two—a Select Committee along the lines the Government propose, or a tribunal under the 1921 Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act. There are arguments for 888 and against either choice. As the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) pointed out on Tuesday, the report of Lord Justice Salmon's Commission in 1966 called attention to defects it saw in Select Committees of Inquiry, and I know that similar criticisms have been made elsewhere.
On the other hand, we must remember that the alternative is a tribunal of inquiry, and that the Salmon Commission said that it was "strongly of the opinion" that these tribunals shouldalways be confined to matters of vital public importance concerning which there is something in the nature of a nation-wide crisis of confidenceThat is from paragraph 27 of the Report. That is not the case here, despite the hon. Gentleman's skill as a publicist. Moreover, to those for whom a Select Committee is a sledge-hammer, a tribunal would be a steam-hammer.
I have also taken the opportunity of rereading a standard reference work on this matter, Professor Keeton's excellent "Trial by Tribunal", which I am sure many hon. Members will have read. He gives full expression to the criticisms of Select Committees. But in his concluding chapter he says, at page 224:The Tribunal of Inquiry, it is manifest, has grown up as an alternative to the Select Committee of Inquiry for certain types of investigation. It has not replaced procedure by Committee, and it is not difficult to imagine circumstances in which procedure by tribunal would be inappropriate, and in which, therefore, it would be necessary for the House of Commons even today to set up a Committee of Inquiry.The Government believe that these circumstances face us today.
The central objection to a Select Committee seems to be the expectation that its members will not be able to forget their party affiliations. I believe that fear to be misconceived. It has been largely influenced by the Marconi inquiry of 1912, which, admittedly, brought no credit to this House. But I look upon that case as being an aberration, and not our normal standard. As my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister has pointed out, there have been subsequent Select Committees of inquiry against which this charge cannot be made. My personal experience confirms this.
Although I have been Chairman of the Committee on Privileges for nearly a 889 year, I have been concerned with a tricky case involving the conduct of an hon. Member. I can say that at no time did party considerations enter into our minds.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen with more experience than I will be able to confirm that this is normal, and I confidently expect that this Select Committee will operate in the same way. Indeed, hon. Members will note that the names proposed in the Motion follow the precedent of the Privileges Committee. In a normal Select Committee, the members nominated are such that there is a Government majority in the body of the Committee, apart from the chairman.
For this Committee, as in the Privileges Committee, it is proposed that if the Chairman is drawn from this side of the House there will be an equal balance between the members of the two sides. Furthermore, I suggest that we need only consider the names that are proposed for the Committee to realise that they will approach their task without any regard to party affiliation.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer to the terms of reference of the Committee. They are confined to the statements made by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South relating to the alleged disclosure of information and documents concerning vehicle excise duty. As I have said, the necessity for this inquiry arises from allegations of improper behaviour, not from the circulation of rumours.
The Committee will not need, therefore, to attempt to trace to their source the myriad of rumours that have been circulating on this subject. Those concerned with originating such rumours can wrestle with their own consciences. The precision of the terms of the Motion will enable the Committee to concentrate upon the allegations which are at issue, to complete its remit with due despatch, and to resist attempts to sidetrack it into extraneous matters.
Similarly, the appointment of this Committee may stimulate debate on whether the secrecy which traditionally surrounds the Budget is necessary or desirable. Indeed, some Press comment has already touched on this aspect of the matter. This question is certainly one of legitimate public interest, and it may be that the House will wish to consider it at some appropriate time—quietly, and when the 890 matter is academic. But this, too, will not be an issue for this Committee.
Hon. Members will see that the Motion empowers the Committee itself to decide which of its meetings should be in public. I am sure that we should leave that to the Committee. I cannot, therefore, accept the hon. Member's Amendment, which instructs the Committee that all its meetings, including those when it is drafting its report, should be in public.
On this, perhaps, I could make this observation. Some of the hon. Member's comments—that he would insist on appearing on television after each appearance before the Committee, and that he would insist on the Committee calling as witnesses all those who had written to him—
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South) rose—
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member can make his contribution later. He has said a lot outside this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too much."] Some of the hon. Member's comments gave the impression that he is not so much interested in discovering the truth on this matter as in staging a great entertainment or pantomime, with himself as the star performer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I very much hope that his attitude before the Committee will dispel this impression.
§ Sir G. Nabarro rose—
§ Mr. Peart: This has been a painful duty. The hon. Member and I have known each other for many years.
§ Sir G. Nabarro rose—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way.
I have never at any time used the word "insist" about television appearances. I have never used the word, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman now to withdraw it. I have never used the word "insist" about public sittings of the Committee—I have suggested. I have never used it about television—I have suggested. What the Press or others may have attributed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a different matter.
§ Mr. Peart: The hon. Member may not have used the word "insist".891
§ Mr. Peart
He may have said "require". If he did not specifically say "insist", I will withdraw it. But this is the impression that he has left. I am not complaining. I hope that he will dispel it when he addresses the Committee. He has given this impression, and it is on the record. If the hon. Gentleman were to accept, fully, my right hon. Friend's statement on Monday, and withdraw completely his allegation of a Budget leak, I would, even now, seek permission to withdraw this Motion. If not, I have no alternative but to press it.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
Before we decide on this Motion, may I earnestly ask the House to consider very carefully whether it is right for us to agree to the appointment of a Select Committee on the facts, such as they are, which are known to us and in the party political atmosphere which inevitably surrounds this matter.
May I make it clear at once that I do not for one moment presume to criticise any of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are to sit on the Committee, if it does sit. If there is to be a Select Committee, the Opposition must do their duty to the House of Commons. But it does not in the least prevent us on this side of the House from considering and giving our humble views on the matter. I think that that is supported by the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has, very properly, if I may respectfully say so, prescribed that there shall be a free vote on, at any rate, this side of the House.
This is a House of Commons matter. I cannot help being a lawyer, but I promise the House that I will not take a legalistic line today. I have not been a Member of the House for many years as things go, but I have a great love and respect for it, and I shall have that in mind in what I say. I believe that there are a number of hon. Members opposite, and possibly some right hon. Members—I certainly know of one—who think, as I do, that we should make a mistake if we appointed this Select Committee.
I firmly believe that the appointment of a Select Committee in a case of this nature—and I stress that—with the 892 essentially political background which will quickly come into the foreground, as it has already done this afternoon—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not know what the noises were, but they sounded a bit party political to me. I believe that the appointment of a Select Committee would be not only against the tide of development of our constitutional machinery for the investigation of unpleasant subjects like this, but a retrograde step in relation to the rights of the individual and of the democratic system in our Parliament.
The Select Committee procedure is notoriously deficient in almost every one of the principles to which we at any rate give lip service as part of the rule of law. I do not wish to weary the House, but, to show that I am not exaggerating, I should like to give a few details which can well be checked by any lawyer in the House.
First, there is no law applicable. The Committee is a law unto itself. There are no specific charges. There are not even any pleadings on paper. It is entirely an inquisitorial process. That is inevitable under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act. But that Act was passed deliberately because the Select Committee procedure was so deficient. There is no presiding judge, with all that that means in the administration of justice. That is not the slightest reflection on the Leader of the House, for whom I have always had the greatest respect. It is simply a fact that there will not be a judge of the High Court or of a higher court, as is proposed by the the Salmon Committee, presiding over the inquiry. Nor will there be a prosecutor who would be bound by the unwritten but compelling rules of conduct which apply whatever the case—even if the man in the dock is an old criminal.
The Select Committee would be a free-for-all. Anybody can ask any question he likes without any limitation. No objection to the question can be entertained. It is a free-for-all, with no holds barred. There are no rules about documents which may or may not be produced. That is a great protection in the law courts, where it is certain that all the available documents which are admissible will be produced and that prejudicial or unfair documents will not be produced. There is no rule of that kind. Worse still, the 893 person whose conduct is being inquired into—and we have no doubt who that is here—has no privileges of any kind. He does not even have the privilege that a man accused of murder or an old lag committing another offence has. [Interruption.] I have already intimated that we should have proof of the atmosphere, and I hope that we shall have a lot more as we go along.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton) rose—
§ Sir L. Heald
No. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I am in the middle of giving a list of deficiencies, as I think I am entitled to do. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman when I finish this part of my remarks.
§ Sir L. Heald
The Leader of the House adopted that course.
The decision of the Committee does not depend on any judicial considerations. It is a party matter decided by vote. The Leader of the House pointed out that the Chairman would have a casting vote. The Government are entitled to have a majority in the Select Committee.
There are usually two reports, one minority and the other majority. When such reports are debated in the House, there is usually a scene which is rather like feeding time at the zoo.
§ Sir L. Heald
I am dealing with the procedure of the Committee. I am sorry to say it, but I have been in places where the most eminent lawyers have behaved in the most illegal way. This is notorious in relation to their wills.
If it is thought that I have been exaggerating, I wish to call a witness, a man for whom I believe everyone in the House would have the highest respect, and who was one of the outstanding figures of the first half of this century—Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, who was previously Lord Robert Cecil. If anyone does not know about his relationship with this House as Lord Robert Cecil, he would know about his relationship with 894 the League of Nations and matters of that kind.
Viscount Cecil had the advantage of taking part in two such Select Committees. He is not a man who would speak with lack of moderation. First, he referred to the Jameson Raid inquiry. Jameson and others were sent to prison. However, after that certain people thought that they would like to pursue other individuals who had not been charged. Therefore, the House appointed a Select Committee and Lord Cecil represented a gentleman called Dr. Harris.
This is what he says about it:There was no counsel for the prosecution, certain members of the Committee undertaking, more or less, to act as such. But as always happens in these circumstances, they had no one to get up the case for them. The result was that the Committee discovered nothing. Probably there was nothing to discover. But if there had been they certainly would not have discovered it … A Select Committee of that kind is, I believe, almost the worst possible instrument for clearing up questions of personal responsibility.Lord Cecil went on to deal with the Marconi Committee, with which he was also personally concerned. The Committee was nominated by party Whips and after a long inquiry, rejected by a strictly party vote all the allegations against members of the Government. He said:A minority Report, for which only the Conservative Members voted, while not making any charges of corruption, animadverted strongly on what was considered the grave want of discretion shewn by the Ministers impugned. I had a good deal to do with the drafting of the minority Report. The whole incident confirmed me in the view that, for what was in the nature of a judicial inquiry, no tribunal could be worse than a Select Committee of the House of Commons.A number of hon. Members present now will remember Lord Winterton. He was the Father of the House when I first came here. He reminded us on one occasion of the scenes which took place when the Marconi Report was debated in the House—a most squalid occasion—he said—with howling across the House from both sides. I remind the House that we already have heard some noises of that kind today, even before the Committee has been appointed. What is to be the position after it has reported?
I have very little more to say—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There again is the absence of the judicial function in this House.
895 As a result of the experience on which I have quoted Lord Cecil, in 1921, the Tribunal of Inquiry Act was passed. It was passed for the very reason which I have indicated, to set up a procedure that would be judicial. This is what the Salmon Commission said about it, in addition to what the Leader of the House said:When, in 1921, grave allegations were made by a Member of Parliament against officials in the Ministry of Munitions, the favourable impression made by the Parnell Commission and the unpleasant flavour left behind by the Marconi Report of Inquiry were remembered. It was felt that the investigation by Parliamentary Committees of Inquiry of alleged public misconduct were entirely discredited, and that accordingly new machinery should be created more appropriate to deal not only with the current matter but with any similar matters which might arise in the future.That Royal Commission was concerned in advising whether the tribunal procedure should be continued and it unanimously and strongly recommended that it should. I do not think that we could have anything much stronger than that.
Hon. Members should ask what this inquiry is for. If there were a definite matter of urgent public importance it could be made the subject of a judicial inquiry, but the Leader of the House knows perfectly well that no judge would undertake the responsibility, because it would be fishing in the dark. Therefore, because they cannot get a judicial inquiry, the Government consider that they must have something, and this is the best they can do. I hope that the House will agree that it is not good enough.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker (Leyton)
The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) told us that we should think carefully and that it would be a mistake to set up a Select Committee. So far as I followed his argument, it was against all Select Committees for any purpose. No Select Committee has a judge or prosecution and defence. This would apply to Select Committees on Private Bills. On the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument we would have to abandon the whole system of Select Committees.
One point which he seemed to miss is that from time to time we have to provide 896 some kind of inquiry into statements and actions of public people where no legal offence has been committed or alleged. If this country could not make inquiry into such things, public life would immediately begin to degenerate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that there would be majority and minority reports, but, in my short experience on the Committee of Privileges, that has not happened. It has not happened on several Select Committees of this kind. Since the Marconi case—there have been Select Committees which have come to a conclusion without dividing on party lines.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is assuming that there is bitter party controversy over this issue, but there is not. The leaders of the Oppositions were extremely careful, wise and prudent in the line they have taken. The whole case of the right hon. and learned Gentleman rests on the assumption of bitter party controversy when there is in fact no bitter controversy on this matter.
The Marconi Select Committee was obviously a quite exceptional one, an aberration which went away from the general tendency of Select Committees before and since. There was on that occasion bitter political controversy, not only over that issue but during that time, and Ministers of the Crown were involved. The Opposition made an attack on the Government and, not to the credit of this House, the Committee did divide on party lines, but there have been other similar Select Committees since on which that has not happened.
If he had wanted to avoid having a Select Committee, the right hon. and learned Gentleman might have urged his hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) to withdraw his statements. Then of course, no one on either side of the House would want a Select Committee—not for the reasons the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave, but because this is an unsavoury affair and, if one can possibly avoid it, one does not want to proceed into it. But, clearly, the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is not going to withdraw. He has missed two opportunities to withdraw. He could have risen immediately after my right hon. Friend the Leader of 897 the House had spoken and have withdrawn. Therefore, we must proceed to consider the Motion.
It seems to me, unlike the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that some kind of inquiry is necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am just coming to it; I do not make statements without giving my arguments. I am about to give reasons why some inquiry is necessary. First, it is in the interests of the hon. Member himself, because he made his statements outside the House, where other statements have been made challenging the veracity of what he said. That is a very grave and awkward situation for an hon. Member to find himself in. He should have an opportunity to vindicate himself and to establish which of the various statements he has made he wishes to stand by.
The hon. Member himself said on Monday last:An inquiry … will be a happy circumstance for all of us who have contributed to this controversy, not excluding myself.So he is one who wants an inquiry.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The right hon. Member must not put words into my mouth. I said that it would be a happy circumstance, and a happy circumstance in the form of a Select Committee. We could then all contribute to the controversy, all who had knowledge of this nefarious matter instituted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The hon. Member appears to forget from time to time what he said previously. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] On Tuesday, he said that he gave "a general but … qualified welcome" to this specific decision. So we have the hon. Member on our side. He has given general, although qualified, support to the idea of setting up a Select Committee. So, when he speaks in the debate, I hope that he will stand by those words and show that he wants this Motion to be carried. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
It is in the interests of the hon. Member. If he himself said that he wants a Select Committee of this kind, that is reason enough to proceed with this Motion.
898 There are one or two other reasons. One is that the good name and repute of a considerable number of reputable printing firms have been aspersed, in remarks, at least, attributed to the hon. Gentleman. In the interests of the managements and workers of those firms, who are under some sort of general cloud of suspicion, those aspersions should be cleared up, and a Select Committee is the way of doing that.
The gravest reason for an inquiry is that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, as reported, made attacks of a very grave kind on civil servants and Treasury officials. He has made no attempt to clear those up, inside or outside the House. Outside the House he said he had information from inside the Treasury. He told the Sunday Times that what he meant bymy Treasury intelligence"—wasown native ability to appreciate the financial situation, don't you see?But in spite of this rather curious, not denial, but reinterpretation, three separate reporters with three separate shorthand versions bear out what he said. The Daily Express reported that he saidhe had information from inside the Treasury";in the Daily Mail, thatTreasury officials before Christmas told him",and the Daily Mirror, thatI first had information before Christmas. It came from someone in the Treasury".Those are very grave allegations to make, but a worse, a graver one was a statement reported by the Financial Times of 4th February to have been made by the hon. Member and never commented on by him, as far as I know, or explained away. He is reported to have said:Last night, Sir Gerald told reporters: 'The type for the forms was set up and proofs taken. What the Treasury have decided to do, in my opinion, is to take the type apart'.The hon. Member is, therefore, accusing Treasury officials not only of leaking secret information, but of destroying the evidence. This is a charge of such a grave nature against people who cannot defend themselves that it really must be gone into, if the hon. Gentleman stands by it.
899 For these reasons, some inquiry really has to be made. I think that the tribunal idea is not right. The House should always be extremely reluctant to set up a tribunal of inquiry which, by its very nature, departs from natural justice, although it occasionally has to be used. I think that the Select Committee is the only possible device open to us, because here we have a conflict of evidence which can be settled only by interrogating witnesses, and the Select Committee is the only way, short of a tribunal, which this House can use for arranging for evidence to be heard and witnesses to be cross-questioned.
Therefore, it seems to me that the case for some inquiry is overwhelming, and, if so, that the Select Committee is far the least bad of the solutions before us. It is a solution which has been welcomed by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, himself, and the House should not hesitate to pass the Motion.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
I have listened to earlier speakers with a good deal of quietness, with an occasional intervention to correct them when they strayed from the paths of righteousness—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and I hope that I shall be listened to in reasonable quietness, too. I will return to deal with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick—Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker)—later. [An HON. MEMBERS: "Kidderminster."] I was not defeated at Kidderminster.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
There seems to be a good deal of dubiety about convention in a debate of this kind, when a Member of the House of Commons is, metaphorically, arraigned before his fellow Members for an alleged misdemeanour of one kind or another. Those in ivory towers are the occupants of the Treasury Bench, evidently; the colleagues of the arraigned Member spring to his defence largely on party lines—for there is no personal dishonour involved in the charge today; no personal dishonour, only a controversy about the Chancellor's forthcoming Budget—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Let me finish—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
—and whether secrecy has been observed or otherwise. That is the point at issue.
There is no charge against me of personal dishonour. If there is a charge of that kind, I hope that subsequent speakers in the debate will level the charge against me, for so far I have not been apprised that there is any mention of dishonourable—I repeat, dishonourable—conduct on my part.
Neither should there be any dubiety about conventions in this matter. The Daily Mail's political editor misled all his readers this morning, when the Daily Mail said:Normally when an M.P.s conduct is involved and a Committee of investigation is set up by Parliament he keeps quiet until the Select Committee calls him to give evidence in private.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Of course, the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Ham-ling) may think that a highly humorous "Ha, ha, ha" intervention. Even the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is telling the hon. Member to shut up.
I was, therefore, at very considerable pains to test convention in this matter with the best legal advice I could obtain from the Clerks at the Table and I learned that there is no inhibition put upon a Member of this House in speaking in a debate of this kind where his conduct, though not his personal honour, is called in question. I therefore sought to speak quite early in the debate so that all who follow me will have opportunity publicly to state their objections to my views. They are welcome to state those objections. I shall deal with them all seriatim and faithfully in the Select Committee.
Now let me deal first with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Leader of the House. I want to deal with them, first of all. The Prime Minister said last Tuesday:I am well aware of what has become something of a convention that because of the Marconi Committee no one any longer trusts a Select Committee of the House … to 901 look into these matters with impartiality. But I cannot accept that view … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 227.]The Prime Minister's view is that a Select Committee will proceed with the utmost impartiality.
The Leader of the House today followed that—I wrote down his words—by saying that it was wrong, that "members of the Select Committee will not be able to forget their party affiliations". "Not be able to forget their party affiliations".
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Murray) really should contain himself. I did not finish my quotation before he opened his large mouth and started expostulating. The words to which I draw attention are:Members will not be able to forget their party affiliations.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
It is not out of context. It is exactly out of the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman. He is now nodding assent. I am seeking to say that the Leader of the House strongly confirms the Prime Minister's view that the Committee will proceed with the utmost impartiality.
I do not believe it. I do not believe that any one of my political opponents sitting on that Committee will be capable of proceeding with the ulmost impartiality. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Listen to them now. Those are the men who, for 20 years, have been dedicated to my political assassination. [Interrup- 902 tion.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer should not treat my remarks with such levity. If he were on the Committee, I should accuse him of the utmost partiality. He has demonstrated that on every public occasion when we have appeared together. I do not believe that the members of the Committee are capable of dispelling their political affiliations because they are sitting under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss).
In any event, look at the numerical composition of the Committee. There are six Socialists, four Tories and one Liberal on it. Therefore, even in the event of the Liberal voting with the Tories on issues which throughout—I repeat, throughout—will be highly charged with political explosive, they would, consistently be outvoted by the Socialist majority.
Does one really expect a fair hearing in those circumstances? I do not. That is exactly the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). He was saying, in the most strictly legalistic tones and terms, that one could not have—let me use the Prime Minister's own incomparable terminology—a politically motivated group of men, as the Socialists on this Committee will be, to decide whether or not I have been guilty of a misdemeanour. Even if the Committee ruled against me on a Socialist majority, I should reject their findings absolutely.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
In view of what the hon. Member has just said, will he now join me in a recommendation to the House that the Select Committee should consist entirely of members of his own Front Bench?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) gives me a valuable point. I am grateful to him, as always in these matters. I was about to proceed halfway with faltering steps towards him and to say that if the notions of the Leader of the House were by chance correct—that the Committee could proceed with impartiality—why not have a majority of Tory Members on it?
None would I prefer to see seated there more than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). How delighted and gratified I should be to see my right hon. Friend 903 the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain MacLeod.) [Interruption.] I cannot proceed against the amount of noise that there is from the benches opposite. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West who pointed scornfully at the Socialist Opposition 1960 and said, "We do not need them. We have our own opposition behind us—the hon. Member for Kidderminister".
§ Sir G. Nabarro
My right hon. Friend says, "So what?" But, at least, it demonstrates—[Interruption.] It is, I agree with the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), a very good remark.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West is deeply appreciative of my work for his party. He is volunteering to sit on a Select Committee. If he had a majority of Tory Members, Privy Councillors of long experience, as ought to be the case, the matter would not be judged in a strictly partisan or party political sense [An HON. MEMBERS: "You hope."] I hope, says an hon. Member behind me. No, I have the utmost confidence in my right hon. Friend.
I have said enough about the manifest lack of impartiality of the Committee which is being set up, and I pass now to the second objection. None more so than the right hon. Member for Vauxhall should appreciate this point. The right hon. Gentleman has long and incomparable experience of matters related to privilege. He fought for two years in 1957 and—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It would help the House if the hon. Member were more speedy in getting to his quotations.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
It may be a pious hope, Mr. Speaker, that I can proceed with speed. I can speak four times as fast if I am allowed to be heard over the crowing and jeering of hon. Members opposite.
I resume my argument. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall fought a long and sustained action in 1957 and 1958 on behalf of absolute Parliamentary privilege accorded to every document and every communication brought to this House. If anybody wishes to look it up in 904 HANSARD, the reference is column 246 of 8th July, 1958.
The right hon. Gentleman lost at the end of the day by the very narrow margin of five votes. I was here. I voted for the right hon. Gentleman because I conceived, as many of my Tory colleagues did, that it was utterly impossible for a diligent and conscientious Member of the House to conduct his parliamentary duties unless absolute parliamentary privilege is accorded to every communication brought to him, whether verbally or in documentary form.
For the Government to be so hamfisted as to appoint as Chairman of the Committee a man who has dedicated himself to the cause of parliamentary privilege—and I shall, of course, claim, among other things, absolute parliamentary privilege for everything I have done and said here in recent weeks—seems to me a blunder of a major character.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
The hon. Gentleman seems to be mistaken. The battle of privilege in 1958 was over whether a letter between an hon. Member and a Minister about a matter on which the Minister was responsible should be subject to privilege or not. It was confined to that issue.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The right hon. Gentleman must not wriggle. I am well aware of the circumstances and I will not weary the House by relating them. I reread the whole case yesterday afternoon, in detail.
There is no difference between privilege, accorded or otherwise, of a document sent by an hon. Member to a Minister and sent by the Minister back to the chairman of a nationalised board, on the one hand, and a document brought by an elector to a Member of Parliament, on the other. There is no difference whatever. That may be contested and, of course, I shall take advice from those more learned than I in these matters—my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey and others—but there is no doubt that privilege is paramount in the conduct of the duties of an hon. Member, and if that is contested by hon. Members opposite merely for the purpose of trying to assassinate my political—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman shouts at me that I am not worth it. He has been in this House a relatively short time.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there anything in the Motion which deals with how long an hon. Member has been in the House? The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) is now bringing the question of membership into his speech and that has nothing to do with the Motion.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I have sorted out from my voluminous mail this morning three documents, three letters to me, all of a defamatory and obscene character. They were directed against, first, the Prime Minister, secondly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, thirdly, the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity.
If I broke Parliamentary privilege and divulged the letters with the names, an action in the civil courts could follow at once for defamation of character and for libel. But, I am utterly privileged in receiving these letters. The men and women who wrote to me are utterly privileged in writing to me. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] Yes, they are.
If any hon. Member wants to see these letters, I will show them to him privately. I would not quote them in a Parliamentary debate because they are too obscene. The fact remains that Parliamentary privilege protects the actions of every Member of this House and that it is utterly impossible for a Member to conduct his duties without absolute Parliamentary privilege of every communication and every document brought to him. For all these reasons, I shall claim before the Committee—and I give advance notice of this—absolute privilege in the matter of any communications or any documents brought to me.
906 I come now to my third and last objection, as I see it, to the proposed Select Committee. I aver that the Committee should conduct its affairs in public. You have not selected my second Amendment, Mr. Speaker, and I will not allude to its terms, but I merely state that it is my conviction that it is in the public interest that the Committee should conduct its affairs in public. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Nabarro show daily."] Hon. Members opposite chide me on, "The Nabarro show daily". That is as may be.
What a feast for the national Press if the processes of the Select Committee are conducted, as the right hon. Gentleman said they would be, by interrogation and I am on the witness stand, under oath or otherwise, because there is no member of that Committee who will be able to suborn me or beat me down in question and answer. The hon. Member for Gravesend laughs. He is one Member of the House who could not. He is a mere flatulent lightweight.
Of course, the Committee should conduct its affairs in public. I give way on the matter of television cameras because Parliament has voted against its proceedings being televised, and as a Select Committee is a Committee of Parliament I concede that Parliament has decided against a Select Committee being televised. But I do not concede a point about public hearings. Neither do I concede that it should be within the discretion of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, with the help of his Committee, to decide what is held in public, and what is to be held privately.
I say that this matter of motor taxation which I have raised and propagated is of such general public importance to 11 million motorists and 15 million licence holders, that every question and every answer should be given in public, with the national Press there. If it is held privately, I will immediately make the public accusation, both on the Floor of the House and outside, that the Government are running away from the consequences of their own policies. Further, no inhibitions should be placed on me from appearing in television programmes during the sittings of the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) that many other hon. Members wish to speak. He must not digress.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The charges brought against me by the Leader of the House are of a very serious character, Mr. Speaker, and I intend to defend myself. It is true that I have done 23 television and sound broadcast programmes in one week. Of course, some were of such quality as to have been reproduced. But I warn the Leader of the House that, if he proposes that his colleague, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, shall call in aid anything said on a television programme, it may not be a question of just one line alleged to have been attributed to me on a television programme. It will be the document reporting the whole of the exchanges on the television programme, the entire transcript or text as sworn by a Commissioner of Oaths; otherwise, it will not be admissible evidence for the right hon. Member for Vauxhall.
If he does not require that in the Select Committee, I shall, of course, make the charge that he is proceeding unfairly and with partiality, so much of what has been said having been attributed to television—[Interruption.] It is no good the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), the Secretary of State for Social Services, growling when I say that. It was the Prime Minister himself who observed that he saw me on television. His words were:I saw the hon. Gentleman on television last night.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While I can understand the desire of the hon. Gentleman to set the terms of the Select Committee, have we no protection against his attempts to write the script in advance?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
After the Prime Minister's observation, I said, "Good". The Prime Minister continued:I am surprised and a little sorry that the hon. Gentleman has not given a general rather than what he calls a qualified welcome to what I have said."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 226.]That is the answer to the right hon. Member for Leyton, who was gibing at me about my behaviour in responding to this proposal. I gave a general welcome to it. My qualification is first, because it is highly partisan in character and, second, because I have not heard officially that it is to sit in public.
I pass to my third and last point.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
Would the hon. Gentleman not add a third objection, that the whole affair is unworthy of a Select Committee?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The third point of my hon. and learned Friend—I call the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) that; I hope that he does not mind; we have much in common, of course—is exactly mine, but expressed in slightly different words. This whole Select Committee process is bringing Parliament, which I revere, into disrepute. Parliament is being ridiculed. That is why I object to the Select Committee.
At this point, I quote from yesterday's Sunday Express—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
"Current events", by John Gordon, had this to say:Aren't our M.P.s making themselves look silly? Sir Gerald Nabarro, the Hancock of politics, is to be hauled before a select committee to explain where he got his information that Chancellor Jenkins intends to raise the tax on cars to £35. Now that doesn't seem to me a very exciting disclosure, whether true or not. But from the rumpus aroused, you would think that Moses had dropped the Commandments as he was coming down from Sinai. Nevertheless, if M.P.s wish to make themselves look foolish, who am I to stop them? As a public entertainment, the inquiry should set the nation rocking with laughter. Sir Gerald wants the T.V. cameras there. I back that. Nabarro the comedian facing Mr. Jenkins—who on T.V. usually contrives to look as woeful as a codfish—would beat even the Saga as a rollick. So much so that I suggest the committee should meet not in the daytime but at night so that we could all be at home to enjoy it.
§ Mr. William Price (Rugby) rose—
§ Mr. William Price
The hon. Gentleman quotes from the Sunday Express. Has he forgotten that, under a Conservative Administration, two journalists were sent to prison for refusing to reveal their sources of information?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I do not think that that is relevant. I do not think that I should go into the case of Mr. Brendan Mulholland, Mr. Speaker. You would tell me that it was out of order at once. I am glad to have your assent. Sir, as always.
I come to my final example of the ridicule of Parliament. It appears in today's Daily Express. Never have I seen a cartoon which ridicules Parliament more than that in today's Daily Express. A diminutive Prime Minister is handing a pass to a policeman at the gate of the Palace of Westminster. The policeman has my face and wears the uniform of the Metropolitan Police.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The Prime Minister is speaking, and the caption underneath reads:Don't you recognise me, officer? I work here, too—I shift the scenery and so forth …On the side of the Parliament building is a large hoarding. In big block capitals it says:The Nabarro Circus.630 Performing M.P.s!'Select Committee'—the non-stop Revue I'Question-Time'—the crazy-laughter show!'Debate '—you'll die of laughter!Big Ben does not have a clock face. It has my face. The castellations on the facade of the Palace of Westminster do not have their normal architectural adornments. Each one has my face. There are no hon. Members' cars in Palace Yard, only NAB 300 to NAB 400.
I will go no further with this descriptive matter. My case is made. Parliament is: being brought into utter disrepute by the Select Committee process. A great number of my right hon. and hon. Friends will vote against the Motion tonight. I gave it a qualified welcome. Had it 910 been an unbiased and impartial Committee, I should have supported it, but it is neither impartial nor unbiased. The proposed procedure brings my revered Parliament into disrepute. I do not propose to vote for the Motion or to abstain. I never abstain. I propose to vote against the Motion, because I believe that it is wholly injurious to the public interest and inimical to our Parliamentary democracy.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I will address my opening remarks through you, to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). I have never imputed to him any personal dishonour, nor do I now. I want to make that clear. On the other hand, he has imputed grave personal dishonour to all members of the proposed Select Committee, including those who sit on his side of the House.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) will be a member of the Committee. I would be prepared to be judged on a matter of deep honour by him. Looking at Members opposite, I do not believe that political life has sunk so low that decent and honourable means nothing. There is no sense in this life without honour. I would be prepared to be judged by a Select Committee composed only of Members opposite.
Recently, the Committee of Privileges—a Select Committee—judged the case of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). That was a deeply distressing experience. I challenge any senior Members on the Opposition Front Bench who sat on that Select Committee to say that Members from this side were any less objective in their judgment than they.
What is the sin about which we are speaking here? We are speaking about a proceeding in Parliament. If nothing had been said after last Monday at 3.30 nothing could have been done. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the House, rested his hands on that Box, which contains all the documents on which we swear our oaths, and gave an assurance. The overwhelming body of Members of the House accepted that assurance.
911 Let any Member opposite who did not accept that assurance stand up now. Every Member accepted it, because when the Chancellor comes into this House and says, "This is so", he expects to be believed—[Interruption.] There can be no sense in that place, otherwise. I think that the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said something. Does he wish to intervene?
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. However, he should know that not all assurances which have been given publicly by the Chancellor in this House have been honoured. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware of that.
§ Mr. Pannell
We take this assurance in the context that this is a matter of the personal honour of the Chancellor. I cannot think of anyone who would not accept it in that context.
Because the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) did not accept that assurance certain things followed. I will give only two quotations from the Press, one of which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker). Yesterday, The Sunday Times reported:Treasury officials before Christmas told him"—the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South—they would be advising the Chancellor to increase the cost of a car licence to £35 …That is a matter of the gravest imputation of a Budget leak from Treasury officials.
If people think that this is to be lightly brushed aside or that a Select Committee should not follow, let them take their minds back to 1947 and the Dalton episode. When the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was confronted with a breach of confidence, a few words to an old friend who betrayed the confidence, he decided to resign. Despite anything said by his colleagues, he came to the House and indicated that. That did not stop hon. Gentlemen opposite. After he had resigned, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Winston Churchill, demanded a Select Committee. That was after he had resigned, after he had paid the price. That shows the extreme 912 vulnerability of the Chancellor at that Box. At this time of the year he is more vulnerable than anyone else. Because of the long tradition of confidentiality and protocol he expects, more than anyone else, particularly at this time of the year, to be believed. I will not bother too much if hon. Members opposite feel that they cannot vote for this Motion. However, there is such a thing as party loyalty between colleagues and comrades, and I have no doubt that everyone on this side will go into the Lobby to vote for the Motion tonight.
Concerning the performance this afternoon, we have never seen the like of it in this House before. In America, they had their late Senator McCarthy and Adam Clayton Powell, but we have never yet had a performance exactly like the one we had this afternoon.
What did the hon. Gentleman say about the Select Committee? The Sun of 6th February reports him as follows:If they meet in secret I shall tell the newspapers after each session what has gone on, and I will appear on T.V. every night.I am afraid that he will not—
§ Sir G. Nabarro rose—
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman will not be allowed to go on television. The BBC. and I.T.V. have at their heads distinguished ex-Parliamentarians who know what is involved in privilege and they will know their duties. I believe that the hon. Gentleman wished to intervene.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I merely wanted to say that the right hon. Gentleman has been very kind and generous to me, classically so. But I will meet all these points of detail in the Select Committee. I have voluminous documents available. The Sun is grossly inaccurate in a great deal of its reporting. I will deal with any and every allegation put to me in the Select Committee. I understand that the debate today is not to deal with matters 913 of minute detail which will be dealt with in the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Pannell
I do not know the reason for this intervention. The hon. Gentleman did not deny that he wanted to lay down his own terms to the Select Committee. What he has said in his speech this afternon has underlined that. The hon. Gentleman has contempt for the Select Committee. That means that he has a contempt for the procedures of this House, so he has contempt for this House. He takes the lowest possible view of all members of the Select Committee. If the members of the Select Committee thought as he did and took such a low view of their fellow Members, they could not in honour serve this House.
At the end of the day all of us, including the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, have to submit to the will of the House. That is what Mr. Speaker swears to do on appointment. It might be that at the hearing before the Select Committee civil servants or the printers will want the protection of privacy. The honour of those men—indeed, their livelihoods—is just as precious to them as to the hon. Gentleman. The Select Committee must decide in all the circumstances and in its great corporate wisdom how it will conduct its affairs. I hope that the matter will be despatched speedily, because I think that it rests on a very narrow point. It does not rest upon the fan mail of the hon. Gentleman. I hope that the Select Committee will be allowed to do its job because I do not want, in the middle of it, a reference to the Select Committee of Privileges, something which could well happen. I hope that at the end of the day everyone will consider that this matter is sub-judice.
Last week the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) attempted to say that this was not the vehicle for dealing with this matter. It so happens that last week I asked my right hon. Friend to consider this as the appropriate vehicle for dealing with it, and I think that I must, therefore, seek to justify my reasons.
The Marconi affair is not a precedent, and it is curious that that long quotation by the right hon. and learned Gentleman from Lord Robert Cecil came from the leader of the minority side of the Marconi 914 Inquiry, who was responsible for the majority of the uproar. That is often the case. If that inquiry was brought into contempt, that was done as much by the gentleman quoted as by anybody else.
This House has continually referred matters concerning the honour of Members to Select Committees. The outstanding case was the Boothby affair, and then there was the case of Elijah Sandham, in 1929. But what is sometimes forgotten is that there has been a tendency since those days to refer these matters to the Committee on Privileges, rather than to special Select Committees. Having served on these Committees, I have no doubt that the Committee, right across the board, strives for a sense of natural justice.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Boothby case in 1940. That was 25 years after the Marconi scandal inquiry, and in the intervening period there had been investigations by the tribunal set up under the 1921 Act, including the one into the conduct of Mr. J. H. Thomas. The Select Committee machinery had not been used for some considerable time when it was used to inquire into the case of Mr. Boothby, as he then was.
§ Mr. Pannell
The Thomas case preceded the Boothby case. It was in 1937. What I am trying to say is that, particularly since the end of the war—25 years ago now—these matters have continually been referred to the Committee of Privileges, which is a Select Committee in itself. Allighan went there. He was dismissed from this House on the Motion of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). The Leader of the House, Herbert Morrison, in his mercy, suggested a six months' suspension, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman moved his dismissal, and he got support right across the House. Walkden had to depart from public life because of this. Even the case of the hon. Member for West Lothian, a recent one, went to the Committee of Privileges.
I am saying that this is not an expensive matter. It is not like a matter taken outside. It does not have a great array of counsel, but, for everything said against Select Committees, I can bring qualitative opinion against the tribunal. 915 When the last one was proposed hon. Members on both sides rose to attack the procedure. When it comes to looking at a man and his personal honour, there is no procedure which is not open to the gravest objections. I can assert with the greatest confidence that we know the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South far better than any tribunal can know him. When we speak in this House, it is as much what we are, as what we say. A character is like a bank account, something to be called on in case of emergency.
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman already has an overdraft.
This is something which is rightly dealt with by Members of the House. There are on both sides of the Committee Queen's Council who are not alien to the processes of law, and whose legal training will come to the aid of their colleagues, as it always does. When a colleague is before a Select Committee one looks at him with as favourable an eye as possible, but at the end of the day one has to be objective in one's judgment. This should have been a clean and tidy proceeding. It could have been a minor inquiry to deal, not with a matter of honour, but with a matter of credibility. It could have dealt with whether civil servants had fallen from their standards of duty. It could have dealt with whether the hon. Gentleman himself was a victim of a fraud or a hoax. I am sorry, but, looking at the hon. Gentleman with the most favourable eye, I know, as we all do, that under the cap and bells of the jester, and despite his brashness, he is rather a simple-minded man.
I hope that we can recover our composure after the hon. Gentleman's speech. I hope that at the end of the day we can decide to have this inquiry. I hope that we shall carry it out with dignity, and that we shall hold our peace until our experienced fellow Members have come to a judgment. I hope we shall express the confident hope that those who have been slandered will be acquitted, and I hope, too, that the hon. Gentleman will be rather more careful in future.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I think that the House of Commons is probably never at its best when discussing the affairs of one of our colleagues, on whichever side he may sit. My experience, after nearly 24 years here, is that the House as a whole is humane in its approach to such problems, but my feeling this afternoon is that this matter has got completely out of proportion.
I did not quite catch his words, but I think that the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) referred to statements made outside the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). If my hon. Friend has made such statements, he is quite capable of looking after himself within the law which is available to him.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Even remarks made outside the House can concern the House if they are made by an hon. Member.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I stress what my hon. Friend has said about the matter of privilege. Where does it begin and end in relation to correspondence to and from an hon. Member?
The Leader of the House, for whom I have a great respect, said, though possibly he may not have intended this, that the Select Committee might be turned into a pantomime. I think that the right hon. Gentleman rather implied or suggested that that might happen. But we do not have to wait for that to happen. It happened as soon as debate started, which shows the ridicule of the whole matter.
Let us consider this affair. All the Members of this House, all 630 of them, are different, which is probably just as well. Whatever their characteristics, they all have a niche in the House for what they are. Everyone thinks that everyone else is eccentric, but I am sure everyone will admit that over the years my hon. Friend gave as much annoyance to my right hon. Friends when they were the Government, particularly those at the Treasury, as he has to the present Government.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The country has admired my hon. Friend for what he has done over the years in his battle to get 917 Purchase Tax reduced. He has made a political name for himself because of his actions on Purchase Tax matters.
§ Mr. Hamling
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that a charge by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) that Treasury officials have committed a breach of the Official Secrets Act can be dismissed as a nonsense?
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
That will come out at the Select Committee. I want to deal with the broad principle whether the Committee should be set up.
It is the duty of every hon. Member, whether in the Government or in opposition, to obtain information upon all matters in which he is interested. I have always found that in opposition the problem of obtaining information is far more difficult than in Government. One has to probe and look around, and it is very difficult to obtain a good brief in order to make a speech on intricate matters which concern the House.
I remember that in the late 1940s there was an expectation that the Soviet Union would attack the West. I had got wind of an actual date—7th June, 1949—and I interrupted the winding-up of a defence debate and mentioned this date when the then Minister of Defence—Mr. Alexander as he then was—was speaking. I intervened as a new and energetic Member. He was furious at the fact that I had hit the nail on the head. Had he taken the matter further and proceeded to carry out investigations as to where I had got my information he would have found that it had come from a colleague in the Air Force or the Defence Ministry during the war. If we are to pin down everything that an hon. Member says and ask where he got it from and consider whether he should have mentioned it, we shall be doing nothing else all day.
The Guardian made the point succinctly in the latter part of last week when it said:Mr. Jenkins said that he was thinking of asking for an inquiry because Sir Gerald had made grave charges against unnamed individuals in the printing industry. This was probably the most illogical suggestion of the evening. No one can accuse a printer of leaking a printed Budget secret which (as Mr. Jenkins had already stated) has not yet been printed.918 That sums the matter up. Had my hon. Friend obtained information which somebody could have used to make a large profit on the Stock Exchange it would have been another matter, but nobody could have done that. All that a person could have done would be to take out a new Road Fund licence on his car sooner than he would otherwise have done.
I cannot help thinking that hon. Members opposite are being very sensitive in the matter. They are very sensitive about everything at the moment. If they think that something is politically worth 50 million votes they want to pursue it.
My hon. Friend has irritated most of us over the years. Nevertheless, I have great admiration for the diligence with which he has gone about his work. When the Chancellor made his statement, that should have been it—never mind what might be the outcome of the Select Committee. [An HON. MEMBERS: "Why did not he withdraw?"] Hon. Members opposite must listen to the argument. I do not want to prejudge the outcome of the Select Committee, but it is clear that my hon. Friend will not go to prison for life. He will be back in the House in some form or other and will be on to something else. He is made that way. It would have been far better if, after the Chancellor had made his statement, the matter had been left there.
How long will this Select Committee sit? I have nothing against right hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House who are to be members of the Select Committee. I admire them all. No doubt they will do a very difficult job very well. The Committee might finish in one morning. On the other hand, it may go on for weeks, or even months. I hope that it will not drag on until the Budget period, because it might then be very embarrassing for the Government.
I am not trying to gloss over this matter in order to give my hon. Friend a clean bill of health, but I want to make the point that we are rather ridiculing ourselves in the eyes of the public. We are bound to do so. The cartoons have shown that, and they will go on showing it. All this is happening while the country is going through a period of great stress. One had only to read the leading article in The Times on Saturday 919 about our economic situation to realise the gravity of the problems confronting Parliament and to come to the conclusion that it is ridiculous that we should be asking Privy Councillors and other hon. Members to spend their time on a Select Committee which might take days and weeks or even months investigating a matter such as this. We should be doing far better if we dropped the whole matter now.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
Mr. Speaker has enjoined upon us the need for brevity and I shall therefore make only one comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). His speech strengthened my conviction that the exercise on which we are now engaged is a sheer waste of Parliamentary time. We should not expect a Select Committee composed of busy and in some cases very distinguished Members to spend days, or perhaps weeks or months, enduring the kind of exhibitionism which has been shown today by the hon. Member.
There are two questions which must be considered in the debate. First, should there be an inquiry at all? Secondly, if it is right that there should, should it take the form of a Select Committee? In my view the answer to both questions is "no".
There have been many occasions in Parliamentary history when the House has ordered an inquiry. I had the privilege of giving evidence before the Salmon Commission on Tribunals, and I referred to some examples, in particular, the speech—quite frequently quoted—of Lord John Russell who, calling for an inquiry into the conduct of the Crimean War, said:Inquiry is the proper duty and function of the House of Commons.He gave two examples—the loss of Minorca in 1757 and the surrender by General Burgoyne at Saratoga, 20 years later. In each case the House instituted an inquiry. Many inquiries have taken place since then. There was the Parnell Commission; the Dardanelles inquiry, set up by Act of Parliament in 1916, and the series of tribunals of inquiry under the Act of 1921, the most dramatic of which was in 1935. I remember the 920 tragic speeches of Mr. J. H. Thomas and Sir Alfred Butt, whose careers had been brought completely to an end.
There have been other occasions when inquiries should have been held. I have in mind particularly the Suez invasion in 1957. Many demands have been made for an inquiry into the well-substantiated charges of deceiving the House and collusion with the Israelis and the French. These demands have always been rejected by hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite, who want to resist any sort of inquiry into what they did then.
But all these matters in respect of which inquiries were held, or should have been held, were matters of great consequence. On each occasion there was a solid foundation for the belief that there had been grave incompetence or maladministration in the conduct of national affairs, or some gross scandal involving Ministers or public officials.
Here we are concerned with matters of an entirely different order. If we have this sort of inquiry, what will it have to investigate? It will have to consider not merely the allegations of the hon. Member, as referred to in the Motion, but also the sources upon which he relied. Is a Select Committee of this House really to inquire into the gossip of public houses in Derby, or the precise colour of a piece of paper which was shown to the hon. Member by two unnamed visitors in the Lobby?
I have observed that every inquiry, whether by Select Committee or by tribunal, is remembered by a special name. It may be the name of the subject matter, or the principal participant, or even the chairman. Thus, we had, for example, the Crichel Down inquiry, the Marconi inquiry and the Lynskey Tribunal. This inquiry, I fancy, will go down to history as the Taproom inquiry. It seems to me that, when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced last Monday that there could have been no such Budget leak as had been inferred, that should have been the end of the matter. I believe that that would have been accepted by the whole House and that it was not necessary to pursue it further.
I now come to the other question: what should be the form of the inquiry? In saying what I do, I imply no disrespect 921 whatever to the right hon. and hon. Members whose names are mentioned in the Motion, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), who would be an admirable Chairman on the Select Committee if it were set up. But I submit that a Select Committee cannot be the appropriate tribunal in a case of this kind. That does not imply, as some people seem to think, any reflection upon the House or upon hon. Members, but when one has to examine witnesses and weigh evidence and decide whether one party or another should be believed, that is essentially a judicial function. The essence of a judge's office is complete detachment. He must not be a friend or an antagonist of any of those who appear before him and must have no interest in determining the issue, one way or the other.
In this House we are all partisans. So we should be. We are returned here as partisans. We, of course, know one another well, both in our own parties and across the Floor. We have our likes and dislikes. We are all supporters of one side or the other. In those circumstances, it is always extremely difficult for us to sit in judgment upon a fellow Member. That has been frequently demonstrated over the years.
For example, until 1868, the House used to appoint a Committee to decide disputed elections. I dare say that the integrity of hon. Members then was as great as it is today, but nevertheless they had to end that practice, because—not always, but generally—the Committee voted along party lines, whatever the evidence. Therefore, in 1868, we decided to delegate the function. We did not hand it over to the courts in the ordinary way, but entrusted each inquiry to two judges who had to report to the House. No one now proposes to go back to the old system. But it was because of considerations of this sort that the Salmon Commission concluded as it did—I think rightly.
There are always references here to the Marconi Committee, but that is not the only example. There have been many others. May I remind the House of one which has not yet been mentioned. That was when a Select Committee was set up in the 1930s, which reported in 1938, in what was known as the "Sandys case", involving the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). He had alleged 922 that, arising out of a Question which he had put on the Order Paper, he had been threatened by the Attorney-General of the day with prosecution under the Official Secrets Acts. The House set up a Select Committee, which heard a great deal of evidence—from the right hon. Member, from the Attorney-General and from various distinguished soldiers—and which divided on a number of occasions, each time, precisely on party lines.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred on Tuesday last week to two particular cases. He said:Indeed, there have been Committees of this House since the Marconi inquiry, which took place in very special circumstances—for example, the Select Committees which inquired into Budget disclosures in 1947 and into the conduct of an hon. Member of this House during the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 227.]I should like to refer to both of those.
The 1947 inquiry does not carry the matter any further, because in 1947 there was no dispute. Dr. Dalton—I might say in passing that I had the greatest admiration for him, because I served as his Under-Secretary for two years during the war—got up at the Box and admitted to the House that he had been guilty of a grave indiscretion in making a disclosure of the contents of his Budget to a journalist before his Budget statement. There was no dispute that he had made the statement, or that the journalist had immediately telephoned his newspaper. The only matter which the Committee had to consider was not who was telling the truth but how far the proprieties of Fleet Street had not been observed. That was the only issue before them.
Then there is the other matter to which my right hon. Friend referred, the inquiry into the conduct of an hon. Member. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has already reminded us, it was the conduct of Mr. Robert Boothby. I must say, because I am one of the few hon. Members here who survived from 1940—there are some others, but not very many—that many hon. Members at that time were extremely unhappy about that inquiry. It took place in 1940, at a time when party feeling was running very high indeed. In the Division in the "Norway debate" the House had overthrown the Chamberlain Government, but, even after that, there remained for some months the greatest 923 bitterness, particularly among Mr. Chamberlain's supporters. It may have been natural, but it was so.
I remember very well how, when Mr. Churchill got up at that Box and made some of his most famous speeches—for example, the one about fighting on the hills and the beaches—they were greeted with rapturous applause from the Labour and Liberal benches and almost dead silence from the benches on this side. I do not want to go into those controversies again, but I recall it because it was in that atmosphere that that inquiry took place. On the one side, there was a majority of the Committee who had been Mr. Chamberlain's supporters and, on the other, an hon. Member who was well known throughout his career to have been a close adherent of Mr. Churchill—
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
Returning to the Dalton case, would my hon. and learned Friend not agree that, when the Leader of the Opposition of the day demanded an inquiry, although there had been no dispute on the facts, one factor in his mind was that the Treasury was involved? Is not this an important factor which must be taken into account?
§ Sir D. Foot
I have no way of knowing what was in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition on that occasion.
I was going on to the other case. I am not saying that the majority of the Members of that Committee were influenced by their political feelings. They may have been able to be entirely unprejudiced—I do not know—but as one who was here in 1940, I think that there was widespread uneasiness about a Committee which was, inevitably in those circumstances, constituted in that way.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I, too, was a Member of that Parliament and my recollection on some of the matters to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers is not identical with his. Surely the point of that inquiry was that the gentleman concerned was not only a Member of this House but was being criticised for his performance in this Chamber in speaking without disclosing an interest and having received a fee for his advocacy in this Chamber, and that that was why a Select Committee was chosen as the appropriate vehicle?
§ Sir D. Foot
I deliberately, of course, have not gone into the merits of the controversy. I am not asking the House to go over again what was considered by that Committee. I am merely saying that there was, at the time, considerable uneasiness in all quarters of the House arising out of the political circumstances which then prevailed, that it was extremely difficult for hon. Members of the Committee, in those circumstances, to be, or at any rate to appear to be, completely impartial. I am not saying that we should not go back to Select Committees for any purpose.
Here I should like to say this to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker). I do not think any of us have suggested that we should dispense with Select Committees. There are many things which they do very well indeed. We had a Select Committee on the surrender of peerages a year or two ago. We had a Select Committee on stage censorship, presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss). We had a Select Committee which reported on privilege nearly two years ago, and I regret that we have not yet had an opportunity of debating its Report. But we ought not to have a Select Committee where this entirely different form of inquiry is involved. Therefore, even if there should be an inquiry—which I do not believe there should be—this is the wrong sort of inquiry.
I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West: I do not regard this as a question of confidence. This is a House of Commons matter. I think this is the sort of issue on which both Front Benches should listen very carefully to the opinions that are expressed from behind. On the other side of the House there is a wealth of Parliamentary experience on the back benches. On the back benches on this side of the House we have a unique assortment of angels and ex-Ministers. I think we should be listened to on this occasion, and that is why I hope that the Government will have second thoughts.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
I do not intend to speak for long. As the House is aware, there is no question of taking a party position on this side of 925 the House. I think I ought to say a few things, as one who has grown to love this House over 19 years and as one who held for a short time the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer and, therefore, who is aware of the high traditions of the Treasury and of the great burden which falls upon the Chancellor.
I had not intended earlier to intervene in the debate, but I have listened with growing apprehension as the proceedings have rolled ahead. In my view, this is a matter which we must take seriously, but for heaven's sake do not let us take it pompously. If we are pompous about it we shall make ourselves look foolish, and that would do even more harm than has already been done. There is a real danger, which is appearing as the debate goes on, that this is degenerating into an argument of a party political character. I see some force in the argument that this is almost inevitable if a Select Committee in the form proposed should be established at the end of the day.
Let us be clear on what it is we really want to know. We do not want to have an investigation into tittle-tattle and public-house gossip, as the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) said. Nor is there a question in my mind of inquiring into the conduct of an hon. Member. That is not the point at issue, and must not become such. There are only two possible things of which the House wishes to know more. Of those two, the second is the only one which is substantial.
First is the question of information being given by Treasury officials, and the second is the question of the document seen by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). On the first point, this has not been his assertion. In any case, it is incredible that Treasury officials should give away information. I do not believe that my hon. Friend asserts that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is my understanding. It is an incredible assertion and I do not believe it has been made. The real point is the document to which my hon. Friend referred. Here we have a situation in which an hon. Member says that he has seen a document, printed by order of a Government Department, which discloses a decision to increase a tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that no such document could have been printed by 926 order of the Government Department. Here is a clear conflict of fact, and I submit that this is the only thing that really matters.
I accept unreservedly that the Chancellor is sincerely speaking the truth. I also believe that my hon. Friend saw a document of the kind that he described. Surely all we want to know is: what are the facts? Has the Chancellor been misinformed of something done without his authority, or has my hon. Friend been hoaxed by something which was not a genuine document? That is all that really matters. Do we need the enormous paraphernalia of inquiry to do this? I am sure that both the Chancellor and my hon. Friend would be only too delighted to find out what the facts are. Surely, to do that we need some far more informal inquiry attended by people whom one knows to be impartial and before whom the information could be placed by my hon. Friend without fear of prejudicing those who gave the information to him. I am sure that that can be done. This document could be put forward for inspection by an impartial body without prejudicing its confidentiality. Surely this is what my hon. Friend wants.
We want to know whether this was a genuine document or not. I do not think a Select Committee is necessarily the right way of doing it. I suggest that we should concentrate on this one point which really matters and ascertain the best way of clearing it up.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Billericay)
Speaking as a relatively new Member, I think this has been a sad day for Parliament. The main gist of the debate has been affected by various political charges, countercharges and, perhaps more important, I believe there has been a shift in the case as a result of the rather extraordinary performance by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). Nevertheless, I believe the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) is absolutely correct when he says that we must give our attention, as indeed must the Select Committee, to the one specific point, namely whether the document mentioned by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South exists or was seen. This is the central issue and one hopes that all the various arguments will stem from this.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Is my hon. Friend aware that I could get such a document this afternoon and show it to him? Does that mean that there would have to be another Select Committee on that? Anyone can get a forged document.
§ Mr. Moonman
The important difference is this. The original statement and the original document were said to relate to specific printing establishments, hence charges were made against members of a printing union and against Treasury officials. There is a great deal of difference between the usual fun-and-games printed proofs which are circulated in fun fairs and this document which we are debating.
I think it is necessary to consider one or two things said by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South. He asked us not to criticise his honour. Yet we must certainly examine his conduct. Some serious charges have been made against the integrity of the Select Committee, and references have been made to the political affiliations and to the fact that it is politically motivated—his words. It is, therefore, necessary to remind the hon. Gentleman that a Select Committee, composed of a representative part of this House, is surely able to look at these matters in a detached way.
The other point to be borne in mind is that the hon. Member said that he would demand Parliamentary privilege for various documents and for his television performances. This again shows a shift in his argument. Does it mean that he will let the Committee see the documents? Originally he said "Yes", but apparently now he says "No".
§ Sir G. Nabarro
No doubt inadvertently, through a slip of the tongue, the hon. Gentleman mentioned that I had claimed Parliamentary privilege for television performances. I have done nothing of the kind. I merely claimed Parliamentary privilege for documents sent to me by electors outside this House. I did not claim it for television performances of the kind in which I clobbered the hon. Gentleman a few evenings ago.
§ Mr. Moonman
It is with horror that I now see the hon. Member's exotic performances extend to the Charleston. The point at issue here is that the hon. Gentleman 928 has shifted his ground so much that anybody who has a certain affection for him finds it difficult to know exactly what he has been prepared to argue on any one occasion.
The next point which is relevant to this matter is to demand what the issue is all about. The right hon. Member for Barnet emphasised this, and I agree that this is the job of a Select Committee. It is also important to try to assess why this is being done. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) was misjudging the whole mood of the debate. He asked, in effect, "After all, is it necessary?" He was saying that his colleague would not be sent to gaol but would return, and, in saying that, he rather suggested that the whole thing was not serious enough for a Select Committee. I believe that it is. It would be a great mistake to imagine that because an hon. Member can make charges, can product evidence, can use a means of mass media which did not exist 50 years ago, the matter can rest there. It is up to us to show what we are trying to do.
This is not an entertainment. If it is, it is a tragedy rather than a comedy. Allegations of improper conduct have been advanced concerning certain types of evidence which reflect not only on the House but on the printing industry as a whole. I hope that, with these brief remarks, the Select Committee's direction is clear. It must move speedily and with efficiency, but it must certainly do a thorough job.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Perhaps with the exception of the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), no hon. Member would disagree that some sort of inquiry is necessary, since serious allegations have been made by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). Grave allegations have been made by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South and unless they are publicly cleared up, anxieties will be left in the minds of the public and grave reflections will stand against the record of certain officials of the Treasury, unnamed printers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I remind the House that it was the Chancellor who stood at the Dispatch Box and said categorically that no such 929 forms could have been printed. Everybody has taken his word for that. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, on the other hand, has repeated some of his allegations and has made new ones, as the Prime Minister said in his statement last week. In these circumstances, we cannot sweep this matter under the carpet. We must do something about it, particularly in view of the disgraceful speech made by the hon. Gentleman today.
It is obvious that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is determined to exploit this issue for every ounce it is worth. He said he would continue to appear on television on every possible occasion—I will leave it to the Select Committee to decide whether or not that is proper—continue appearing in John Gordon's column in the Sunday Express and in cartoons in the Daily Express. The Express newspapers are not helping to uphold the dignity of this House. [Interruption.] Their whole object seems throughout these proceedings to be to undermine the dignity of this House and cast ridicule on its proceedings. The only person who has given any cause for ridicule to be cast on himself is the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
If we are today setting the scene for this pantomime to continue, how on earth can we be assisting to uphold the dignity of this House?
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, egged on by certain newspapers, has managed to convince an enormous section of the public that where there is smoke there is fire. Most hon. Members will have received letters on this issue. In the last week a constituent has written to me saying that he had been told by a friend that these forms were being printed at Westerham, which is just outside my constituency. They are being printed in Derby one moment and in Newport, Monmouthshire, the next, and even in parts of London within a 10-mile radius of the centre. Practically every printer is having to issue denials about being in any way responsible for printing these forms. This cannot be allowed to continue and, for this reason, some sort of inquiry is necessary to clear up the matter.
930 Having said that, I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich that a Select Committee is not the best way of proceeding. He rehearsed the history of Select Committees and I agree that we must carefully reflect on that history in considering whether a different sort of machinery might be more appropriate. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) disagrees with me and has made it clear that the Marconi inquiry should not be treated as a precedent. He urges us to consider some of the matters which were inquired into by Select Committees since that time to see whether they put up a better performance in assessing whether or not they looked at issues from a party political point of view.
I urge hon. Members to recall two matters; first, the one mentioned by the Prime Minister and commented on by the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich—the case of Mr. Boothby during the war—and, secondly, the Dalton inquiry in 1947. Why, from 1912, when the Marconi inquiry was undertaken, until 1940, when the Boothby Committee was set up, did this machinery fall into disuse? I do not know of any other instance which occurred between those dates when a Select Committee was called into being especially to inquire into a matter affecting the conduct of an hon. Member. There were inquiries of this kind, but they were always undertaken by a tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, which was passed because the Marconi Committee came to a party political decision.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
As I pointed out, such matters were not referred specifically to Select Committees because it was considered that the Committee of Privileges was a Select Committee and could always be called into being. It was called into being in the Salter case, when allegations of drunkenness involving hon. Members were made, in the Duncan Sandys case, in which Mr. Winston Churchill, as he then was, not only spoke in the debate but served on the Committee of Privileges to try his son-in-law, and in the Sandham case in 1929. There were not too many such cases, but I pointed out that the Select Committee procedure was considered appropriate in those matters.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I urge the right hon. Gentleman to make a distinction between a Select Committee established especially to inquire into the conduct of one hon. Member of this House and the Select Committee of Privileges, which continues in being throughout the Session and to which matters of this kind may be referred.
In, for example, the Sandys case in 1938 the Select Committee of Privileges first considered the matter and subsequently another Select Committee was set up, but this was done not particularly to examine the conduct of that right hon. Gentleman. It was a Select Committee concerned with the Official Secrets Act and its terms of reference were more general. I am showing that, as the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich pointed out, this machinery has not been generally used since the 1921 Act was passed because of the danger that party politics would enter into it.
Although one accepts entirely what was said by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West—that we do not consciously take party political affiliations into a Select Committee of this kind—there is always the suspicion that the conclusions may have been influenced in some way by those affiliations. That is why I think that we should not have this form of inquiry.
§ Mr. Hooson
Is there not also a danger that the public think that the Committee may have come to its conclusions on political grounds?
§ Mr. Lubbock
Absolutely. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) is quite right. If Members of the Committee consist, as they do, of a majority drawn from the supporters of the Government party, and the Committee finds that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South had no evidence and cooked it all up with the Sunday Express over the telephone from Dublin after a rather good lunch, the public might well think that the hon. Member had evidence but that, because the Committee was biased in favour of the Government, it had come down against him and had rejected his allegations. That is why I would prefer the sort of inquiry which would not involve the politicians from beginning to end.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
If the hon. Gentleman rejects the Select Committee procedure as being inappropriate for the reasons he has given, what other procedure has he in mind? Does he think that the tribunals of inquiry procedure, for example, is suitable for a matter of this kind? Would not that be a four-times mammoth sledge-hammer to crack the nut?
§ Mr. Lubbock
That was the argument put by the Leader of the House, and I was about to come to it. I remind the Leader of the House of paragraph 22 of the Report of the Royal Commission on Tribunals of Inquiry, which seems to me to apply precisely to this case. It says:The history of inquiries to which reference has been made shows that from time to time cases arise concerning rumoured instances of lapses in accepted standards of public administration and other matters causing public concern which cannot be dealt with by ordinary civil or criminal processes but which require investigation in order to allay public anxiety.Is not that precisely what this case is about? We have a rumoured instance of a lapse in the accepted standards of public administration. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has said that information has been revealed by the Treasury, or if not, that the Treasury has allowed certain people, employed by it to print these documents, to show them to him or at any rate to other people as well. That is a rumoured instance of a lapse in accepted standards of public administration and it is causing public concern. If the tax were to go up to £35 that would surely be a matter of great public concern.
Because of these rumours, which are all over the country, right hon. and hon. Members are receiving letters about them which are filling our postbags, and we are having to write back reassurance to these members of the public, sending them the Chancellor's statement that it was impossible for such forms to have been printed. I agree that this could not have been dealt with by any ordinary process, since no charge against the Treasury or any of the printers—who have not yet been named—or, indeed, against the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South himself, has been made.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Perhaps the experience of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is similar to mine. I did not have any letters at all about the matter until there had been a suggestion that there should be an enquiry.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I did not get as many letters about it before the inquiry was announced, but I did get some, going back a month or six weeks. The rumours have been circulating for a long time, although people may not have been brought to write to their Members of Parliament until the matter became someing more of a public issue.
I think that the Leader of the House will agree that paragraph 22 of the Royal Commission Report fits this case very well. The only anxiety I would have about appointing a tribunal is that many of the recommendations in the Report have not been implemented by the Government. The Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, is not entirely satisfactory, for reasons we need not go into now. This is a matter on which the Government should be criticised, because no action has been taken in the two years since the Report was published. If we require some continuing machinery for inquiries into matters of the kind I have read out, the Government have been negligent in failing to amend the 1921 Act since the Royal Commission reported. If they had not been negligent in this respect, we would not have had all this trouble.
If this Select Committee procedure is, indeed, too large a sledge-hammer to crack the nut, why not a Departmental inquiry? Departmental inquiries, according to paragraph 43 of the Royal Commission's Report,… are normally used to investigate matters which are causing public concern, but which are not of such importance as to justify the appointment of a Tribunal under the Act of 1921.Of course, the snag there is that a Departmental inquiry would have no power to compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents, and therefore the Royal Commission says that such inquiries are not suitable for dealing with the special type of case for which the 1921 Act was framed.
In this case, however, no documents are there to be produced, because the 934 hon. Member for Worcestershire, South said that he handed the documents back to the printers from whom he received them and has not seen them since. So it is all very well for the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) to say that the important and crucial issue to be established by the Committee is whether or not the document was genuine or a fraud and a hoax perpetrated on the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South because, when the Select Committee begins its proceedings by saying, "Let us have a look at the document", the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South will reply. "I am sorry, but the printers took it away when they left the Central Lobby. I have not the faintest idea where they are. I could not help you even if I wanted to."
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
There is nothing illegal, as far as I know, in any hon. Member going to the Post Office, getting one of these forms and, as my printing friends will appreciate, making a galley insertion, stating any amount he likes.
§ Mr. Lubbock
That may be so, but it has been suggested that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has been the victim of a fraud or hoax. When an hon. Member opposite suggested this, the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South shouted "No". So he personally is convinced that the document was genuine.
It is a great pity that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, by refusing to withdraw when invited to do so by the Leader of the House, has wasted many hours of the House's time which could have been far better spent in discussing the important Bill for the renovation of old houses which is due to come before us later, and I still hope that, even at this late hour, he will come into the Chamber, make an unqualified withdrawal, and save the time of many right hon. and hon. Members who are far too busy and well occupied elsewhere to waste their time on this Select Committee.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) that it would be a very fine thing for the House if the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) were to withdraw his allegations, but, after what we have seen this afternoon, we cannot expect that.
935 Although there has been some humour, this is a very sad debate for the House. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South said that he revered the House. I find those words a little odd coming from him because of his exhibition this afternoon and in the past week, which has done more to harm the House than anything done or said by hon. Members in a long time.
The hon. Gentleman made a disgraceful attack on the impartiality of the members of the Select Committee which it is proposed to set up, and his attack on its proposed Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), was particularly disgraceful. All hon. Members will respect and revere my right hon. Friend's integrity and honour. It was a most disgraceful attack. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) referred to the partiality of the Committee in a rather more restrained and serious manner.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
In fairness to my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), it should be said that he did not attack the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss). What he said was that because of the right hon. Gentleman's previous connection with a privilege case he ought not to have been chosen as the chairman. That was not an attack on the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Barnett
I prefer to leave it to those hon. Members who are present to draw their own conclusions.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich referred to the partiality of Labour Members of the Committee. The Committee will not discuss a political matter. It will be discussing a matter of fact. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen cannot accept the complete impartiality of any hon. Member when considering a matter of fact, I shall be very disappointed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) dealt with this issue very well. With the possible exception of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, any hon. or right hon. Gentleman would put the House before himself.
Because of the harm the hon. Gentleman has done the House and future Houses of Commons, we cannot laugh it 936 off. Many hon. Members have asked why, when we all accept the truthfulness of what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Monday, we cannot leave it at that. Incidentally, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) did not exactly do anything to help, because he used the words "if there is such a form" that can be shown by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South. There can be no "if". If all hon. Members accept the Chancellor's statement as true, as we all do, the hon. Gentleman could not have seen a genuine form.
§ Mr. Hogg
My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) is not here, but I know enough of what was in his mind to be able to answer for him. My right hon. Friend was not casting the slightest doubt on the veracity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is not a member of this Front Bench who feels the smallest doubt when the Chancellor tells the House that there was no such printing. Not one of us doubts that he was absolutely correct. I must say that it seems to be doubtful whether there is anything to inquire into, but that is another question.
§ Mr. Barnett
I will come to that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that his right hon. Friend did not cast the slightest doubt, and I entirely accept that, although it is my recollection that his words were somewhat equivocal.
The fact that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is arrogant and foolish is irrelevant and unimportant. What is important is that there are still millions of people outside the House who do not believe the Chancellor's statement of last week. I know that it is difficult for some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite not to look for some short-term political advantage in that, and the right hon. Member for Barnet tried to gain some such advantage in his statement over the weekend. He could not help doing so and one can understand it. But that is a very short-sighted attitude, because more important than any short-term political advantage is the long-term harm which can be done to the House itself.
Many people feel that the House itself will be hurt by the inquiry which we are about to have, and I know that this view 937 is genuinely held by those who accept the Chancellor's word. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen argue that they know that the Chancellor was truthful and that if the House has accepted his word, as it has, and that if it is accepted in the editorial offices of most serious newspapers, as it is, that is sufficient. But it is not enough for us to say that we accept the Chancellor's word and that it is accepted in editorial offices. His veracity must be accepted by millions of people throughout the country as well, and that basically is why I am in favour of having an inquiry.
§ Mr. Hooson
Can the hon. Gentleman recollect one Select Committee inquiring into the conduct of an hon. Member which has done any good to the honour of the House?
§ Mr. Barnett
My right hon. Friend mentioned many kinds of Select Committee and inquiry. As with many things, with incentives and taxation for instance, it is very difficult to prove one way or another, but that is no argument for not having an inquiry, and that is the logic of the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson).
I was saying that it is not enough for us to say that we accept the Chancellor's word and that we here can now loftily say that it does not matter what millions of people are thinking. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is wicked in the sense, for example, of the late unlamented Senator McCarthy in the United States.
§ Mr. Barnett
But it is a fact that when smears and rumours and unsubstantiated statement were allowed to continue in the United States for a very long time and when responsible people in both Houses of Congress did nothing about them, loftily saying that they knew that they were all a lot of nonsense, in the end it had to be recognised that it was not enough to say that the man was dishonourable and was talking a lot of nonsense. Something had to be done, and we, too, have to do something. We have to stamp on this sort of thing, and stamp on it hard.
If lies by two unnamed men are allowed to go unexposed, it is not just the future of the present Chancellor of the 938 Exchequer and the present House of Commons which will be at stake. The Budget plans of any future Chancellor of the Exchequer could be circumscribed in an absurd fashion. We must, therefore, scotch this story for this reason. This is not an argument about the fact that there is too much Budget secrecy. I have long argued that the pomp and ceremony of one annual Budget is nonsense, but that is not the argument now.
One has only to think of what would happen if similar incidents were allowed to go unexposed. All that can happen on this occasion is that some people may buy their car licences for 12 months in advance instead of four months, and may, therefore, spend money in advance, but one has only to consider similar unsubstantiated rumours about Purchase Tax or import quotas which might lead to companies throughout the country importing hundreds of millions of £s worth of stock, and that could have a serious effect on the whole economy. It has long been argued that the secrecy surrounding the Budget is nonsense, but that is not the issue which we are discussing today and I hope that nobody will put that argument, as it has been put outside. The so-called leak has been taken seriously by millions of people, and any Chancellor would be put in an impossible position if nothing were done about it. We have to think also of future Chancellors of the Exchequer.
I intended to refer to the Treasury officials—this is probably one of the most serious allegations—but the matter has already been dealt with adequately by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker). If the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is prepared to say now that he withdraws completely any allegation that Treasury officials gave him information, then this would be a very considerable help to the House.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
What I am prepared to say is a repetition of what I said earlier, that all matters of detail will properly be dealt with before the Select Committee, including these continuous references to some unnamed and unknown Treasury officials.
§ Mr. Barnett
I should like now to refer to the harm that has been done to the printing industry generally. If it is ever 939 accepted that a worker or employer in a printing company, because he does not like, or disagrees with, something which he is printing, or perhaps for political or financial purposes can disclose something which he is printing, then it is a most serious matter, not just for this House, but for the printing industry and industry generally.
In another capacity, I have to give balance sheets out to be printed, like many others who do similar work. We never for one moment think that any printer would disclose anything in the balance sheet or use it to his own advantage, which he could. There are many other statements which printers could use to their advantage. It would be a most serious happening if ever it were thought that because some Conservative or Labour trade unionist happened to think that something he had might be of some political or financial advantage, he could use it.
This cannot be allowed to go on without being answered. The House is aware only too well of the hon. Gentleman's reckless disregard for the interests of this House. We know of this and are aware of the circumstances, and of his desire for colourful stories. But to publicise patently false and unsubstantiated evidence outside and inside this House against the best interests of the House is to do himself, probably, more harm than the House. However, in the process, he is harming the House in a way which we cannot allow to go unchallenged.
Equally, the Opposition Front Bench bear a little responsibility. Last Monday, when the Chancellor made his statement, we who were here all know that their silence was eloquent confirmation that what the Chancellor had said was true. That was the time to do a little more, to be a little bigger and stand up and say emphatically that it was true. It might have stopped the rest of this, because with both the Chancellor and the previous Chancellor opposite saying precisely the same thing, maybe even the Press and television, as eager as they were for colourful stories, would have thought again about pursuing this incident.
I believe, therefore, that if only inadvertently, the Opposition Front Bench bear a little responsibility, although, as with the right hon. Member for Barnet, 940 it is understandable that they could not forbear enjoying, perhaps, a little of the embarrassment that the Government found themselves in.
I know that there is a genuine fear that what happens after we have set up this Committee might result in the martyrdom of the hon. Gentleman. There is no need for anything of the sort. All that the Committee needs to do is, in a very brief series of meetings, to expose the facts. Nothing else. There is no need for any exhibitionism such as we have seen here. This does not help in arriving at the facts, and would not help the Committee. I agree that it is true that the inquiry cannot tell us what we in this House already know, but it can tell the truth to millions of people outside who have been misled, and I do not believe that it becomes us in this House to belittle the need to do just that.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I had not intended to intervene in this debate, and as it is I shall be extremely brief. I am led to intervene by what the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett) has said in criticism of the Opposition Front Bench. Let me say, lest there be any question at all about it, that it does not seem to me that my right hon. Friends, who are more responsible for this aspect of public affairs than I am, could have done anything else but what they have done.
When the Chancellor comes to the House and makes a statement of fact that there was no Government printing done and, therefore, there could then have been no genuine document, every member of this Front Bench would accept it at once and without question. What is more, we consider it so much our duty to accept a statement coming from the Government Front Bench to this sort of effect that it would not occur to us to get up and say that we believe it, because it would not occur to us that anyone else would believe anything else. Let that be made absolutely clear.
There is something else that must be made absolutely clear. Once the Government have proposed an inquiry of this kind, my right hon. Friends really could do nothing but go along with it. We had to. What is more, we had to field the most respectable team that we 941 could find, and I believe that the House will agree that we have fielded the most respectable team, outside the Front Bench, which, of course, is not appropriate. I think that we have succeeded in that I do not see what on earth we could have done, honourably, except that.
Having said that, may I express one note of dissent from the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton. He puts the case to the opposite effect of what I believe, and I am speaking now and hereafter only for myself. He put it so clearly that it is possible to answer it very shortly. I start from the proposition that I think I know a mare's nest when I see one. I do not believe in investigating mares' nests. It is a most infructuous operation, because a mare's nest has the peculiar and unenviable characteristic that, although it does not exist, it grows with scrutiny. The hon. Member says that we have to stamp out this sort of thing; that there are millions of people who might believe it, so we must have an authoritative denial. Let me put this very brief argument to the House which is where I find my point of difficulty.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, quite rightly, that the only thing which is within the terms of reference of this Committee is what my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) said, or is said to have said, and whether there is any truth in it. As the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), rightly pointed out, this does not cover the rumours at all. He has heard a rumour about Westerham. There has been another about Basingstoke. There may well be a third about Bristol. If one is to stamp on this kind of thing, one would have to investigate them all. That would open up the kind of nonsense which, speaking for myself, I am most anxious not to open up, and which, incidentally, could not be done under the present terms of reference proposed.
Therefore, this kind of inquiry, whether it is done by a tribunal, or by a Select Committee, or informally by some other methods not specified, cannot on these terms of reference kill the rumours. It is not equipped to do so, and rumours grow with scrutiny. If it did not happen at Basingstoke, well it might have 942 happened at Eton and Slough, and so on. Somebody will write a letter and another hon. Member will get up and then there will have to be some more inquiries. There never was anything in it from the start. This is the point. Investigating a mare's nest is always an infructuous operation.
It is said that these are very serious allegations. Of course they are. It was a very serious allegation when it was suggested before the Denning inquiry that a Privy Councillor served dinner in Connaught Square dressed only in a pair of leopard skin pants. But it did not justify the Government, of which I was a member, wasting the time of the Master of the Rolls inquiring into such drivel. We should consider the dignity of the House, which is better served by taking a robust attitude rather than a namby-pamby attitude towards nonsense and saying that it should be inquired into.
I find it difficult to go along with the Leader of the House, not, as the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton suggested, because I hope to get any kind of even temporary party advantage out of this—nobody is getting any advantage out of it, least of all the House—but because I think that we are embarked on an escalating process of inspecting mares' nests. If we limit our inquiry, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South will be asked, "Where is the document you saw?" He will say, "I have not got it; I gave it back". He will then be asked, "Who gave it to you and what did it look like?" He will say, "I do not propose to reveal my sources. I claim Parliamentary privilege".
Then the wretched Select Committee will have to report to the House that a serious question of Parliamentary privilege has been raised, and we shall have to discuss whether it is privilege—not an altogether easy question. Then we shall have to decide what to do with my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South. Radio 4 will say, "We have just sent our reporter into the Clock Tower to interview the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South". He will be asked, "How does it feel to be inside the Clock Tower?". "Oh", he will reply, "I feel just like John Hampden". This is nonsense, and I think that it should stop.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)
You have asked for brief speeches, Mr. Speaker. I hope that I shall not be considered too unduly eccentric if I follow your wish in the presence of so many long-winded Privy Councillors. It is something of a blessing because your request for brevity means that an hon. Member has an excuse for not going over all the ground covered by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) and into all the astonishing irrelevancies which he put forward.
There is, however, one point which I wish to make about his speech, and that is how awful it was that he should be so insulting about hon. Members on this side of the House and those hon. Gentlemen opposite who are prepared to serve on the Select Committee. For the hon. Gentleman to suggest that their examination of the matter would be coloured by their party political views was very unworthy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reconsider his statement. I reject the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) about whether this is the right sort of tribunal. It appears to me that it is a trbiunal of the hon. Gentleman's peers, and I know of no better form of justice than that.
When the proposal to set up a Select Committee came before the House, I had considerable sympathy with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) that it was taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut. My view was that everyone in the House—and here I follow to some extent the argument of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg)—knew that words which issued from the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South were hot air and, therefore, that no great consideration would be paid to them. To many of us, in that sense, it would seem that we are in the process of setting up something akin to a committee of scientists to discuss the theories of the Flat Earth Society.
My attitude has changed and I now take the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), for two reasons.
944 First, not everybody outside the House has had the opportunity which we have had of acquiring some immunity to the virus which emerges from the species Nab. Egocentricus. The allegation that some printers have been guilty of a breach of trust might well be believed somewhere.
Secondly, suspicion might fall on some of my constituents. I understand that licence discs and the tax tables are invariably produced by Her Majesty's Stationery Office at its printing works in Harrow, and that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South once had some connection with the borough of Harrow. Although the works are not in my constituency, some of my constituents are employed there, and I intervene in the debate to protect their interests. These men are selected for this sort of employment because of their integrity. Therefore, their honesty is a job qualification, and the defamatory allegations made by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South could be potentially harmful to them. Certainly they are allegations of a particularly nasty nature, and my constituents are entitled to have them thoroughly and carefully examined so that the truth can be made known. That is the answer to the point put by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey).
I wish to place on record my complete confidence in the integrity of my constituents who work for Her Majesty's Stationery Office. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South should not be allowed to drag their good name into the gutter with impunity. Therefore, I shall support the Motion.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
The speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) was a perfect illustration of the way in which the House is rapidly making even more of a fool of itself every moment the debate continues. The hon. Gentleman spoke about constituents whose names were being vicariously dragged in the gutter concerning something which has not happened. I might as well claim that an aunt living in Torquay of a printer nephew living in Harrow would be extremely hurt about what had happened. Let us get back to the realms of sanity, 945 which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) tried, I hope successfully, to do.
Much as I love a party row, I promise that I shall speak without any sense of party feeling tonight. I am not championing my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro); I am championing the House of Commons. The question has been put—and I have not heard one hon. Member supporting the Motion answer it—"What are we to inquire into and what will be the answer that we shall get?". There has been a great deal of reference to impartiality and partiality, but what are we to ask about? What will happen as a result of this inquiry? I feel very sorry for those who will have to take part in it, and I am very thankful that I do not have that doubtful honour.
What will happen? My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South will be asked, "Were any Treasury officials involved?". I do not know what his answer will be. If he says, "Yes", he will then be asked, "Who were they?". He will say, "I refuse to say because I will not divulge the names of those who have been to see me". He would have honourable grounds for saying that; there are plenty of precedents for it. Would lie then give the same answer to the House? If so, would one of the drastic penalties be imposed upon him?
Moving to the question of the form, my hon. Friend might say, "There was a form and I saw it". He will then be asked, "Have you got it now?", to which he may say, "No, I have not". Then he will be asked, "Who gave it to you?" and he will say, "I refuse to say because I will not give away the name of my informant". What will we then do? Shall we have to go through all the letters he has received and check them, assuming that he is willing to give them to us? What about the letters which have been sent to the rest of us? Shall we have to send those to the Select Committee? I do not think my colleagues have thought this matter through. I ask sincerely and even passionately what purpose this procedure will serve.
I had a sick feeling in my stomach when this inquiry was announced that we should all make fools of ourselves. Nothing that has happened since has changed 946 my mind. On the contrary, my feeling has been strengthened. It is no good hon. Members blaming my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South or the Press for this. If we provide them with the ammunition and fuel for the fire, it is our fault.
There are only three sets of people who can make fools of themselves out of all this. First, there are the Government. I do not see why I should waste time or sympathy on them. If, instead of coming to the House the other day, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had treated the matter with almost the contempt which unsupported rumour deserved and had sent a junior Treasury official in his place, the whole thing could have been dead. [Interruption.] I am entitled to my view. It is at least as sane as some others which have been expressed today.
The second point concerns the people who hope the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is making a fool of himself over this. On the contrary, my hon. Friend is playing the major rôle in it. He would not want anybody to be sorry for him. He has decided upon a course of action and is quite capable of looking after himself. Hon. Members opposite who think that they have got the fox on the run should remember that very often it is the fox who gets away and the riders come a cropper, especially if, after their experience of my hon. Friend, they think that the pack is now safely in full cry after him.
Thirdly, I believe that we are inquiring into a non-event. The Chancellor gave his word. Everybody knows that whatever a Chancellor might prevaricate about, he cannot prevaricate about forms which are not printed. In this matter, the House of Commons is very much in danger of making a complete fool of itself. It has the chance, even at this late stage, to drop the affair.
Every hon. Member accepts that the Chancellor was telling the truth on the day he made his statement. Quite apart from the printing not being done, I do not suppose that at this stage he has even made up his mind one way or the other about the car tax. It would be very unlike him to have made up his mind about it as early as this before the Budget. Why on earth, because an atmosphere of nonsense gets going, the House of Commons blows it up into an 947 even bigger nonsense, I despair of knowing.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
There are times in this House when the faces of hon. Members sitting quietly on the green benches are more eloquent than the speeches of some hon. Members who are addressing those faces.
I have been a Member of this place for a number of years and I think that I can claim to be as familiar as most hon. Members with the atmosphere of this House. It is generally a generous place, a place which can often make noise over small things. It is a place in which, when the truth is at issue, most hon. Members are able to look to their opposite numbers, even on the other side of the House, and know that they are men of honour.
If any impartial observer of our debate this afternoon had dispassionately tried to assess the weight of the speeches that were made, apart from the official speeches which had to be made by, for example, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council from the Front Bench in setting up the Committee in his Motion, and had listened later to the attempts that were made by quite distinguished legally qualified Members of this honourable House to queer the pitch by legalistic arguments about what should be permissible in arriving at the truth of this matter, such an impartial observer must have been very dismayed. If he were a person of any humour, as distinct from one who took a ponderous view, he would probably be thankful that he had gained free admission to the Gallery this afternoon and had wondered why at any time he had paid 25s. to go to the Palladium.
I do not take a frivolous view of this matter, although I am bound to admit that when I came in this afternoon I was strongly biased in the direction that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has just expressed. During all the exciting controversial references to this deplorable affair, I have felt that perhaps a little banter, humour and good-natured debunking of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) was the best way of dealing with it. When, however, the hon. Member came here this afternoon 948 and addressed us at great length and called into question the integrity of senior Members of the House, on both sides, who are named on the Order Paper as prospective members of a Committee of Inquiry into a serious matter, he treated them all with ridicule and contempt. Then he had the complete effrontery to say that the House was bringing itself into contempt, whereas nothing has done more to bring this House into contempt than the rumbustious, irresponsible behaviour of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South.
I heard the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone earlier, before he repeated it tonight, put the point more dramatically than he has put it this evening about a mare's nest. I heard him say a few days ago, when, as he frequently does, he gave us all the benefit of his advice, in a very loud voice which can sometimes be heard at St. Paul's—
§ Mr. Price
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said a few days ago in my hearing that the most fatuous activity in which this House can engage itself is the investigation of a mare's nest. That was, perhaps, putting it more elegantly than he has put it tonight, and I agree with him.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), who is a rather senior colleague in this House—he has been a Member for many years—and does not often speak, said the other day, perhaps rather clumsily, and was shocked at himself when he said it, that it was rather unfortunate that this honourable House should invoke the cumbrous machinery of a Parliamentary steam-hammer to crack a Parliamentary nut. Of course, many people put their own construction on "Parliamentary nut".
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
We must have the quotation right if it is being repeated. I said that it was a pity to usea sledgehammer to crack a popular but publicity-minded nut."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 589.]
§ Mr. Price
I accept the correction. I do not want to be unfair to the hon. 949 Gentleman or to anybody else in this House, but in the few minutes that I hope to detain the House I want seriously to say this. When I came into the House today I was very doubtful about setting up this elaborate Committee, but after listening to the hon. Member who is the centrepiece of these proceedings, I am persuaded that it is the right thing to do and that we cannot just brush this incident aside.
I believe that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, if he were arraigned by the criminal court on a charge of manslaughter, would so behave himself before the trial judge that the charge would be increased to one of capital murder. He has so little appreciation of a sense of proportion, he is so eaten up by megalomania, by the publicity bug that eats so many people in this House and makes fools of them, that he cannot see how humorous he is being sometimes, and he should be offering his services to Bernard Delfont and not to this House.
I do not want to say anything else except this. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not at present in his place, but about an hour ago I listened with respect, as I always do, to another senior Member of the House, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey). He said that even if there was anything in the rumours that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has been peddling round the country and appearing about 23 times on television and radio, that shows the sense of proportion in the people who run the country's great publicity services. That they elevate this kind of crackpot activity into something of national importance is something that I deplore.
§ Sir G. Nabarro rose—
§ Mr. Price
I am not giving way. There are occasions when I would give way to the hon. Member with pleasure, because I have always said—and I have broken lances with him many times in this House—that the hon. Member has one redeeming feature. Whilst all his political activities are actuated by the most crude form of malice and political bigotry, in his personal life he has no malice at all. I give him that.
To return to the hon. Member for Macclesfield—
§ Mr. Price
No. The hon. Gentleman has so behaved himself in this debate that I do not propose to give way to him tonight. On some other occasion, but not tonight, Josephine.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield said that the hon. Member who circulated these rumours, having failed to produce any evidence whatever to substantiate them when called upon by the Chancellor, could not profit from it, that there were no means of making financial profit by peddling these rumours. I accept that straightaway, but there are other directions in which the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South can profit very considerably. He and his party can obtain a tremendous amount of political profit from these rumours spread about the country in the way they have been, if they are not completely denounced. It is all very well for a lot of people of good will on both sides of the House saying that there are no politics in this, but I am not so naive as to believe there are no politics in this. There is a hell of a lot of politics in this, and nobody knows that better than the hon. Gentleman who started the rumours.
If I were to deal with this as a matter of justice and equity and if I were given the job of trying this as a one-man tribunal I would not make the heavy-weather which we have made of it today, but I would regard as monstrous the offence which the hon. Gentleman has committed against the good name of this House, and I would sentence him to—
§ Mr. Price
Not the Tower. I would not sentence the hon. Member to more publicity. I would say that he should be rebuked in the first place for acting irresponsibly and that he should be called upon to surrender all the fees he has obtained from journalism and television, to be donated to the Water Rats Benevolent Society, which, I think, is a society for the benefit of bankrupt, distressed comedians who cannot get help from public funds.
I see you are shaking your head at me in dismay, Mr. Speaker. I assure you I am not speaking with complete levity, and I shall now sit down saying that I 951 shall vote for this Motion even though my first intention was to abstain because I thought we were making too much of the matter. However, I shall vote for the Motion because matters have gone so far that I think they should be cleared up in the one way the House can clear them up.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) because I really feel there was an utter and complete fallacy in his argument. He said, very sensibly, that he came here with the view that we were making a mountain out of a molehill. Then he said he changed his mind as a result of the speech made by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) today. Surely it is nonsense that, as a result of the speech made by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, whatever we may think of its contents and its quality, we should decide to set up a Select Committee to inquire into allegations made of disclosures about motor vehicle tax. If a sensible man, as I am sure he is, like the hon. Member for Westhoughton first came into the House believing we were making a nonsense of ourselves, as I believe we are, then I can only wish that he would stick to that view and not be put off it by anything the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South may unfortunately have said today.
May I briefly speak in support as strongly as I possibly can of every word which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said? This inquiry surely is a nonsense. The Leader of the House said that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South was trying to make a nonsense out of this issue. With all respect, I feel that with this Motion we are now probably setting the first scene in that pantomime.
One has to ask, what are we to inquire into? According to the Motion, we are to inquire intodisclosures of information and documentsto do with the matter of vehicle taxation. What is the state of the evidence? The state of the evidence is that allegations were made at a public meeting, the 952 Chancellor came to the House and said that they were without foundation, and he gave reasons which, to me, were utterly compelling, that those forms could not have been in existence at that time. So he answered the allegations. He started his statement by saying that the allegations required an answer, which he then gave. So now we are setting up an inquiry into a negative. We are inquiring into alleged disclosures of information and documents which do not exist. Surely, that is a nonsensical basis on which to set up any inquiry.
If the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South chooses to produce some evidence that would justify an inquiry, then, all right, have an inquiry, but, till he does that, I for one cannot possibly see what there is to inquire into.
The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), whose views I respect and to whom I listened with respect because I know he feels strongly about this, referred to McCarthy smears.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Perhaps it was another hon. Member, but one hon. Member talked about McCarthy smears. But the McCarthy smears named people. We have been told that these allegations smear unnamed people. We have not been told their names. What is the position? The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South will, apparently, be asked, "Who are the Treasury officials? "He will reply, "I am not going to say." What does the inquiry do then? Is the Committee going to call in front of it every Treasury official to say, "I am not the official who did not say anything"? What is the position to which we shall get? Till the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South replies to the Chancellor's statement, then I for one believe there is nothing into which to inquire.
What concerns me is that, taking this matter in the way the Government now wish, we are being invited to make fools of ourselves. I am not stupid enough to believe that the reputation of Members of Parliament is particularly high at this moment, but surely a Select Committee made up of senior Members of this House and of Privy Councillors is still meant to stand for something, still has a good reputation. To set up a Select Committee to make this type of inquiry is to lower 953 the reputation of Select Committees. Obviously, I have great respect for hon. Members on both sides of the House who would serve on the Committee, and some of them are of the same profession as that to which I myself am proud to belong, but I would think, with all respect, they would have more important things to do than to inquire into matters of this kind.
I believe we are setting up a very grave precedent. It seems to me that, once this inquiry has been set up, then if any hon. Member cares to make a statement stating something as a definite fact, and then it is denied by the Treasury Bench, immediately we shall have to have an inquiry to see who is telling the truth, or who is mistaken, or who is accurate. The hon. Member for Hey-wood and Royton certainly made the point, it seemed to me that his very argument implied, that in future, every time there is a rumour circulating in the country, then at once we shall have to have an inquiry into it in order to reject it, because, he said, the necessity of the inquiry was because the rumour was so widespread. He said that, though we accepted what the Chancellor said, people outside did not, and he said that, because of this, that argument could be used at every other time there might be a rumour. I believe that by this proceeding we are doing this House harm, that we are doing the reputation of Select Committees harm, and that we are wasting time on a very minor matter. I hope the House will throw out this Motion.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Peart
With the permission of the House, I should like to reply to the debate. I hope that I shall not speak for long because the debate has already gone on for some time. Many points have been raised by hon. Members giving conflicting views, as is inevitable in debates of this kind. I respect for his contribution every hon. Member who has spoken. I hope and trust that, as always in matters like this when it is not a party issue, hon. Members speak clearly from their own point of view rather than allow their political prejudices to affect their judgment. I hope that this will be our approach.
954 As I said at the beginning, the debate itself gave me no pleasure. I repeat that I deeply regret the circumstances which have made this Motion necessary. I said that I intended to take up as little of the time of the House as possible and to try succinctly and clearly to say why it is important that we should set up this Committee and not use the procedure of a tribunal, why we should not ignore this incident, and why we should not have an ad hoc investigation like the Denning inquiry. On balance I think hon. Members, after having listened to the arguments made in the debate, will come to the conclusion that the advice I gave was right.
I do not want to repeat all the arguments, but I think I should take up the interesting intervention made by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). I have always respected him on matters like this. I remember his eloquence on many a non-party occasion when we discussed the conduct of an hon. Member. I shall not refer to the speech in question, but he will remember a speech which he made with great eloquence. I remember it to this day. He intervened in this debate and it is right that I should take his point of view seriously.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it did not occur to his Front Bench colleagues or himself to disbelieve the Chancellor's statement when he replied in the House to a Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens). I accept that, but it is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) does not believe that statement. Even after the statement, he has continued a campaign in the country, not only in the Press but on television and the radio, and has made certain allegations. He has not accepted frankly and fully what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said last Monday.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said that his right hon. Friends go a long way with the Government in their decision to set up a Select Committee. I accept that. There were consultations in the usual way. I have not complained about the attitude of the official Opposition on this. I accept that hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House disagree with 955 the views put forward for the Government in the setting up of this Committee. Of course the right hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled to his views and he has been supported by a distinguished lawyer, the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle). He argued that he knows there is a mare's nest and that rumours will grow if we continue to treat it in the way we are doing now, but there have been serious allegations.
I accept that we should adopt a robust attitude to nonsense, but that is not the question. When an hon. Member makes serious allegations there is always the danger of escalation, but serious allegations have been made and the terms of reference of the Motion are:That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into, and report on, statements made by the honourable Member for South Worcestershire relating to the alleged disclosure of information and documents concerning Vehicle Excise Duty.The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is not on trial in a criminal sense. He has made certain allegations and we cannot dismiss them lightly, as many hon. Members have said today.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), supported by a very powerful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), put the matter clearly to the House. Allegations have been made, not against named individuals. Here I take the point about McCarthyism. It is true that in America there was persecution of certain sections of the community by McCarthy, who attacked individuals in certain cases, but not in all cases. Here allegations have been made against the Chancellor. The Chancellor's word has not been accepted. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has said that he has irrefutable evidence, but he has not produced it.
Charges have been made against printers and allegations have been made against Treasury officials. These have all been repeated. I have here a tremendous file of broadcasts by the hon. Member and Press reports in reputable newspapers. I have the Daily Mail for 6th February in which he made other accusations. It is repeated by the Daily Mail not only about workmen in industry 956 but also about those in charge, "the bosses". It may be that hon. Members take this lightly and think that it is a mare's nest, but these allegations have grown. Accusations have gone on, and it was inevitable that something should be done.
Some hon. Members have suggested various approaches. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), a former Solicitor-General who has great legal experience, criticised the Select Committee procedure. When one reads the Salmon Report one finds that perhaps his view may be confirmed, but I find that I can quote from the Salmon Committee Report—the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) confirmed this—to show that in certain circumstances the Select Committee procedure is the right procedure, and that in this case it is better to use it than to have the heavy procedure of a judicial tribunal.
There are those who say that we should have something different. A suggestion has been made by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and there are those who say that we should leave well alone because in the end the procedure will harm us. But the Chancellor's word and his statement have been accepted by the House and in the country. I do not wish to pursue the argument too far on these matters for we have argued them thoroughly. My advice to the House is that we must trust the Select Committee. I have been Leader of the House for nearly a year and during that time I was on a Select Committee dealing with an hon. Member on my side. That was the Committee of Privileges. We never thought of it in any party sense. Hon. Members on both sides never judge such an issue from a party political point of view.
I have sufficient confidence in the members we propose for this Committee to believe that that will be so in this case. When hon. Members cast reflection on the impartiality and the candid exercise of judgment by hon. and right hon. Members they do a disservice to Parliament. I have read carefully many of the cases, going right back into history, in which we have had inquiries. I read the case which was mentioned by the right hon. 957 and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), a former Attorney-General. He went back to the Jameson Raid of 1896 and to the subsequent inquiry, and he asked the House to consider the words of Lord Robert Cecil. It is true that, in the autobiography of Viscount Cecil, formerly Lord Robert Cecil, he stresses how that Select Committee did not serve a useful purpose and made mistakes. Then we go to the later Marconi case and the cry of "Sticky fingers". I can remember Lord Winterton in his House reminiscing about it just after the war in a case rather like this.
Nevertheless, they are the exceptions, and I believe that we have improved our standards of behaviour since the Marconi case. I do not accept the view that Parliament's standards have declined and that individual right hon. and hon. Members are inferior to those who served years £go. Despite all the criticisms of the House of Commons and Parliament and despite the fact that we are now under the greater glare of publicity through the new media of television and radio, I believe passionately that right hon. and hon. Members have reached high standards. I do not accept the argument that we are debasing Parliament by debates like today's. However, Parliament can be debased if hon. Members make wild accusations after statements have been made categorically by a member of the Government and no evidence otherwise has been produced.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
My right hon. Friend has dealt with the past and the present. Will he deal with the future? If, tomorrow, I say that I have irrefutable evidence in the shape of a letter in my possession that the Chancellor intends to put up Purchase Tax by 10 per cent., the Chancellor denies it, and I persist in my allegations, are we to have another Select Committee?
§ Mr. Peart
We are dealing with the present. We are dealing with the accusations 958 of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, who, I see, has just entered the Chamber. I hope that he will take his seat. I am sorry that he made the speech that he did. I have disagreed often with him on many matters. He has criticised me, quite rightly. When I was a Minister, he put Questions to me on many issues, again quite rightly. Always, I have found him nothing but courteous. Unlike some hon. Members, perhaps, always I have had great respect for him. However, I wish that he had acceded to the invitation which I gave him at the end of my opening speech. It was referred to by the hon. Member for Orpington, and I repeat it for the benefit of hon. Members who may not have been present when I made it.
If the hon. Member were to accept fully my right hon. Friend's statement of Monday last and withdraw completely his allegation of a Budget leak, even now I would seek permission to withdraw the Motion. I hear no response. I am sorry about that. For that reason, I have no alternative but to ask the House to support my view.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Silkin)
I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn—I mean, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put. put and agreed to.
§ The Question is, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into, and report on, statements made by the hon. Member for South Worcestershire relating to the alleged disclosure of information and documents concerning Vehicle Excise Duty—
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that the Chief Whip moved the Adjournment of the House.
§ Mr. John Silkin
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was in the middle of moving the Adjournment when 959 I changed it to moving, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put accordingly:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 221. Noes 65.961
|Division No. 59.]||AYES||[7.3 p.m|
|Albu, Austen||Gregory, Arnold||Newens, Stan|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Norwood, Christopher|
|Allen, Scholefield||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Ogden, Eric|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Hamling, William||Oram, Albert E.|
|Barnett, Joel||Hannan, William||Orme, Stanley|
|Bence, Cyril||Harper, Joseph||Oswald, Thomas|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Bessell, Peter||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hattersley, Roy||Padley, Walter|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hazell, Bert||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Blackburn, F.||Heffer, Eric S.||Park, Trevor|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Parkin, Ben (Paddlngton, N.)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Hilton, W. S.||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Booth, Albert||Hooley, Frank||Pentland, Norman|
|Boston, Terence||Horner, John||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Boyden, James||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Howie, W.||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E|
|Bradley, Tom||Hoy, James||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Huckfield, Leslie||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hunter, Adam||Randall, Harry|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hynd, John||Rankin, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Cant, R. B.||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Rov (Stechford)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Chapman, Donald||Judd, Frank||Rowlands, E.|
|Coe, Denis||Kelley, Richard||Ryan, John|
|Coleman, Donald||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lawson, George||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Silverman, Jullus|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lipton, Marcus||Slater, Joseph|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Lomas, Kenneth||Small, William|
|Dell, Edmund||Loughlin, Charles||Snow, Julian|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lubbock, Eric||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dickens, James||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Dobson, Ray||McBride, Neil||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Doig, Peter||McCann, John||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Driberg, Tom||MacColl, James||Swingler, Stephen|
|Dunnett, Jack||Macdonald, A. H.||Taverne, Dick|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||McGuire, Michael||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Thompson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Eadie, Alex||Mackie, John||Tinn, James|
|Edelman, Maurice||Maclennan, Robert||Tomney, Frank|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Ellis, John||McNamara, J. Kevin||Varley, Eric G.|
|English, Michael||MacPherson, Malcolm||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Ennals, David||Manuel, Archie||Wallace, George|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Mapp, Charles||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Marks, Kenneth||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marquand, David||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Femyhough, E.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Whitaker, Ben|
|Finch, Harold||Mayhew, Christopher||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mendelson, John||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Foley, Maurice||Millan, Bruce||William, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Forrester, John||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Freeson, Reginald||Moonman, Eric||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Gardner, Tony||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Garrett, W. E.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Woof, Robert|
|Ginsburg, David||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Morris, John (Aberavon)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Moyle, Roland||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Murray, Albert||Mr. J. D. Concannon.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Gurden, Harold||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Page, John (Harrow. W.)|
|Bennett, Or. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm)||Hawkins, Paul||Percival, Ian|
|Biffen, John||Hay, John||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hooson, Emlyn||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Iremonger, T. L.||Sharples, Richard|
|Carlisle, Mark||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Clegg, Walter||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Costain, A. P.||Jopling, Michael||Tapsell, Peter|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Temple, John M.|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Doughty, Charles||Kirk, Peter||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Walters, Dennis|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhew, Victor||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Sir Harmar Nicholls and|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Murton, Oscar||Sir Charles Taylor.|
That Mr. Peter Bessell, Mr. Donald Chapman, Mr. George Darling, Mr. James Hamilton, Mr. Gilbert Longden, Mr. Niall MacDermot, Sir Frank Pearson, Sir David Renton, Mr. Ivor Richard, Mr. G. R. Strauss, and Sir Derek Walker-Smith be Members of the Committee.—[Mr. Peart.]
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; to admit strangers during the examination of witnesses unless they otherwise order; and to report from time to time.—[Mr. Peart.]
That five be the Quorum.—[Mr. Peart.]