§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to move the Motion on the Order Paper, it may help the House if I indicate what I think should be the form of the debate on the Motion. I think that it would be convenient for a general debate to take place on the first part of the Motion—that is to say, the appointment of the Select Committee. At the end of the general debate, I propose to put the remaining questions dealing with the other matters.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Anthony Barber)
I beg to move,That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's most Gracious Message of 19th May relating to the Civil List and other matters connected therewith.As the House will be aware, it has been customary at the beginning of each reign to determine the amount which is required for the Civil List and for other matters connected therewith, and to incorporate the necessary arrangements in an Act which has normally lasted for the duration of the reign. This procedure was followed in 1952 at the beginning of the present reign. The Select Committee appointed by the House to consider these matters on that occasion recognised, in paragraph 6 of its Report, thatIf, however, any considerable change takes place either in the burden of public functions laid upon Her Majesty or in the level of prices, it would be in complete accordance with constitutional practice for Her Majesty to send a further Gracious Message to Parliament asking that the original grant should be reconsidered.The House will recall that on 11th November, 1969, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson), then the Prime Minister, made a statement about the Civil List. He referred to the history of this matter and to the fact that it was recognised in 1952 that the value of the provision then made would in real terms be eroded by cost increases over the years ahead. He went on to inform the House that the matter had been kept closely under review, that detailed discussions had been taking place between Treasury officials and the Queen's advisers and that the Government had informed the Queen's advisers 1532… that a new Select Committee would be appointed at the beginning of the next Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1969; Vol. 791, c. 185.]In the Gracious Message which I brought to the House yesterday, Her Majesty requests that consideration should be given in the light of developments since 1952, and I propose that we should repeat the procedure followed at the beginning of the reign by appointing a Select Committee to consider the provision which should now be made. The Government have certain proposals which they would wish to put before the Committee, and the Committee, after a thorough investigation of those proposals, will prepare a report for submission to the House. Thereafter, of course, the House will have an opportunity for full discussion of the Committee's proposals.
The procedure I am proposing is in accordance with precedent. On previous occasions, the Motion to set up a Select Committee was readily agreed to by the House, and, as I have said, there will be an opportunity for full discussion when the House comes to consider the Report of the Committee.
§ Mr. John D. Grant (Islington, East)
I have two questions to put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. First, in view of the fog which surrounds the Royal finances, will the meetings of the Select Committee be held in public? Secondly, in view of the means-tested society which the Government are intent on creating, will it be possible for the Select Committee to examine the Royal income as a whole, including the vast private fortune?
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
Before the Chancellor replies to the questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant), I take it, Mr. Speaker, that we are still to have before us an Amendment which you have not yet announced as having been selected. I take it that we are going to debate that Amendment.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am acting in accordance with precedent. I am advised that the proper course is that if any hon. Member objects to a name when I am reading out the names proposed for the Select Committee he should shout "Object" and I then put that name separately to the House. That is the precedent.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Thank you for that clarification, Mr. Speaker. Before we get to that interesting part of the proceedings, there is a part of the Motion which concerns me and, no doubt, many of those employed in the Royal Household and on the Royal estates.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ I am convinced that it is the business of the Select Committee to inquire into the whole question of salaries and what is happening to the wages of employees, even though they may not be directly covered by the Civil List, because this question is closely related to the discussions which the Select Committee will have. I refer to those private incomes shared by members of the Royal Family which are not subject to normal taxation. There are exclusions specifically for the purpose of augmenting the Civil List and making it possible for the Royal Family to continue, to manage the Royal Estates and also, I understand, to pay reasonable wages.
§ Some trade unionists are concerned about the productivity agreements which have been negotiated by the Duke of Edinburgh himself. The famous potting shed agreement is one with which we are not quite satisfied. These are the sorts of questions which should be discussed by the Select Committee. No other body can do it.
§ Many of us on this side saw with some surprise that the Motion provides that witnesses should voluntarily come before the Select Committee. I understand that this is unusual, in the sense that the normal routine is for a Select Committee to have powers to demand to see papers and to subpcena witnesses to appear before it.
§ It is essential that Her Majesty herself should, if necessary, be asked to submit evidence or be questioned about the accounts. Perhaps the Duke of Edinburgh should, like any other member of society, be asked to submit evidence about the management of the Household and other relevant matters. It is wrong that on this occasion there should be a departure from custom, in that the Select Committee will not have the right to subpcena witnesses or to call for papers. I am certain that many of those who will want to submit evidence to the Select Com- 1534 mittee will want to demand sight of papers, accounts and other necessary information before a fair and proper decision is taken about the future size of the civil list.
§ The Government should agree to amend the terms of the Motion so that it can be seen that the Select Committee has full powers to demand the papers it requires, thereby giving answers to many trade unionists who will be putting some pertinent questions to the Select Committee.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to be clear about just what can happen. The Motion lists 17 names. I understand that the names are to be put to the House individually and that there can be objections to any one of them. Every one of the names could be objected to. If one of the names were to be challenged and deleted as the result of a Division, would the House go on to select somebody else, or would we be left with 16?
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will the Division be called immediately the objection is raised, or will the Division be called immediately after the names have been called?
§ Mr. Speaker
This is a matter to be governed by the convenience of the House. In accordance with precedent, I do not propose to select the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to object to any particular name when I read out the list of names. On objection being taken, I would then propose the Question upon that name for the House to decide whether or not to accept it.
Perhaps I may now give a warning about the scope of that debate. Although it would be in order to discuss the qualifications of a Member to serve on a particular Committee, any criticism of that Member of the House can be raised only on a substantive Motion. So the debate may he narrower than some people may think.
§ Mr. Lawson
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will notice that line 5 says:That the Committee do consist of Seventeen Members.If one Member dropped out, what would the situation be?
§ Mr. Speaker
If it were to be the will of the House that one Member should be deleted it would be possible to add another Member at a later stage. At the moment we are discussing the first two lines, namely, the question whether the Select Committee should be appointed. If we can get that out of the way, we can then go on to the other matters.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, before I manage to catch your eye to speak. The House is now debating the substantive part of the Motion. Can I speak relative to my Amendment on the substantive Motion?
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
Can I try to do so in general terms and we will see how we go? Perhaps I could come in later, if necessary.
My Amendment is clear. There is nothing personal intended against the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). I have tabled my Amendment because of the hon. Gentleman's attitudes, not because of his personality. The hon. Gentleman and I respect each other's views. If I had not been speaking in these terms on my Amendment—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman said that we would have to see how we go. I think that we have gone far enough already. It is quite clear from the way the hon. Gentleman has begun that his remarks would be more appropriate at a later stage. We are now on the general question whether a Select Committee be appointed.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I think that the Government are wasting the time of the House. I am not sure that there is any need for a Select Committee. I am not opposing its appointment. In fact, I am supporting it. I have doubts about whether this is the best way of proceeding. It may well be the convention.
1536 The Chancellor has told us that he already knows what the Government will propose to the Select Committee. If and when the Select Committee is appointed, the Government will tell the Select Committee what the Government have in mind. This is wasting the time of 16 or 17 hon. Members, because they will be unable to send for persons or papers. It is unnecessary for the Government to have a Select Committee. That would deal with the question whether there should be 16 Members or 17 and whether my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) should serve on the Committee.
Why should not the Government tell the House now what they have in mind? Why cannot the Chancellor tell the House that he will agree to recommend an increase of 66 per cent., which is what the Government did for the chairmen of the nationalised boards? No one except me objected to that. That was followed by a 66 per cent. increase to the higher paid civil servants. Again, no one objected except me.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
The hon. Gentleman must not say that no one else objected.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot pursue the question of the salaries of the chairmen of nationalised industries and of higher-paid civil servants.
Sir G. Nabaffo
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A grossly inaccurate statement has been made. I protested loudly, clamantly and continuously about this matter.
§ Mr. Lewis
Perhaps it will satisfy the hon. Gentleman if I say that after I objected he followed suit.
I have no intention of discussing the salaries of the chairmen of nationalised boards. They have been agreed. All that I am doing is to produce evidence to show why it is not necessary to appoint a Select Committee in this instance. In the two cases to which I have referred, the Government acted with alacrity—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman said earlier that he supported the setting up of a Select Committee, but he is now saying that it is not necessary. I am not sure where we are.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am putting forward the pros and cons. It may be that other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), have not yet made up their minds. It may be that the hon. Gentleman will again wish to oppose the proposal. I am giving him and other hon. Members the arguments for and against so that they may consider the position.
Here is an opportunity for the Government to save the time of the House by stating publicly the amounts that they have in mind so that we can debate them.
§ Mr. Lewis
I was going on to give a more recent example, and it came when, under a Tory Government, the Tory-controlled Greater London Council increased by £73 a week the salary of one of its officers who was already in receipt of £9,000 a year. Not a murmur came from any hon. Member opposite, including the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
No. I was saying that the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in imputing to me a lack of opposition to these exorbitant increases in salaries. I have protested loudly, clamantly and continuously.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am pleased to hear that. If we had a debate now on the proposed increases which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has in mind, it might be that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South would want rightly to protest. On the other hand, it may be that he would say that the right hon. Gentleman's proposals were not sufficient.
When it suits the Government they attack £1 a week extra far those on lower incomes. Every day of the week we have some Minister, talking about cost inflation and large salary increases, saying that we should cut down. I am afraid that we may have the same situation again. If we set up a Select Committee, the Government may come forward with a proposal which is considered to be too much. Who knows, we may then have Ministers saying that the Government's 1538 proposals are highly inflationary and will lead to further cost inflation. If that were to happen, I should prefer it to be done on the Floor of the House before a Select Committee is appointed.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Then again, a Select Committee might delay matters. I do not want to see any delay. Only today, I heard the Leader of the House say that he has still not appointed the members of Lord Boyle's Committee. It took two years to appoint the chairman, and to this date we still have not been told who the members are to be. We do not know when the proposed Select Committee will report. It has been suggested that it might not be until the autumn. This Motion has been put down one day after the announcement. It appears from that that the matter is urgent. Speaking for myself, after 17 years, I think that 66 per cent. would be a fair figure. Perhaps the same will be given to Members of Parliament. In any event, the matter would be expedited by getting the Select Committee working quickly.
Then I look at the names which appear in the Motion. I shall not move on to the Amendments. That would be out of order. Line 5 of the Motion reads:
That the Committee do consist of Seventeen Members",
and then follows a list of names, the first of which is Mr. Joel Barnett. If I may say so, he is an honourable, intelligent man who possesses expert economic knowledge. That is a very admirable selection, though I do not claim for a moment that my hon. Friend is what is known in this House as an "old" Member, either in age or experience.
§ The next name is that of Mr. Boyd-Carpenter. He is a very old Member of this House. He happens to be a Privy Councillor.
§ Then we have Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, who comes somewhere between both. He is a Privy Councillor, but he is not old. However, he has made up his mind already. He said that he has a figure in mind which he has not yet disclosed to anyone, as far as I know. Only he knows.
§ Then we have Mr. Chichester-Clark. He name is followed by that of Mrs. Peggy Fenner. She certainly is not an old Member. I have no doubt that she is 1539 knowledgeable about this matter because she is a member of the fair sex and well suited to give advice.
§ The next name is that of Mr. W. W. Hamilton. He is greatly respected and a senior Member of the House. He will be very useful in the Committee. I support his nomination because he does not happen to be either a newcomer or a Privy Councillor. My hon. Friend is a senior Member of great knowledge and experience, and I suggest that he is the only back bench hon. Member who is truly representative of the overwhelming majority of Members of the House— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ This House overwhelmingly consists of Members who are not Privy Councillors. The Privy Councillors are in the minority, but they have the majority in both views and opportunities. Going through the list we see that each Member of the Select Committee is a Privy Councillor, a Minister or an ex-Minister, with the exception of the one or two newcomers and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West.
§ May we be told how this democratic decision was arrived at in the first instance? I know that we shall have an opportunity of voting. However, I understand that in Communist countries the Kremlin selects the yes-men. The parties can then either agree or reject them, but they cannot put forward alternatives. We have not had that opportunity here, and I do not think we shall get it. We must agree en bloc to this list. We have no opportunity of putting forward anyone else. This is not in accordance with good democratic practice.
§ It may be that other hon. Members might have been recommended by back benchers. I suggest that in future an opportunity should be given to all hon. Members to put forward their views—[An HON. MEMBER: "And their claims."] Yes, and their claims if need be. We all represent constituents. No hon. Member, whether a Privy Councillor, a Minister or an ex-Minister, should take precedence over any other Member when it comes to stating the voice of the people that he represents. Hence, this is not a good democratic procedure; this is not the best way of proceeding.
§ I hope that we shall get the Committee's report quickly. No statement has been made on how long it will take before 1540 reporting. Hon. Gentlemen may giggle as much as they like. I am interested that Members of Parliament have also been waiting for seven years, particularly ex-Members who have been shabbily treated by both Governments.
§ I do not want the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to be kept waiting and to be shabbily treated. We have had experience during the last year of the Govenment treating the sick, the disabled, the old and the unemployed in a shabby way, and I am afraid that they might not be fair or reasonable in this connection.
§ I should like the Government to say, "We will do the right thing, and we will do it openly. We shall be as generous as we have been to the higher paid." I do not want them to adopt the attitude they have taken with the poorer sections of the population—the postmen, the engineers, the bricklayers and the carpenters.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
There must be many hon. Members with the same doubt as myself. I do not presume to speak for them; they will no doubt speak for themselves.
I have no objection to the setting up of the Committee provided that there is no serious change in its composition. If the composition of the Committee were to be seriously changed, I might feel very strongly about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has pointed out that among the 17 Members proposed for the Committee there are nine Privy Councillors. We normally accept that Privy Councillors are honourable men and we often accept their judgment. Nevertheless, the House of Commons is being asked to agree to substantial sums of money being expended. On that basis we are entitled to consider the composition of the Committee and how it is weighted in that direction. Although the Members come from both sides, there is a fairly heavy weight of Privy Councillors—nine out of 17. They could be taken as most likely to arrive at the kind of conclusions which will be recommended to them. I say this without animosity or feeling against anyone. This is how right hon. and hon. Members tend to go on.
I should like the Members of a Committee of this kind to be critical of suggestions put to them. There is the possibility of a minority report. I understand 1541 that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has certain propositions to put forward. Perhaps certain sums might be greater than the sums which have been requested. I should expect to hear about such a proposition before settling the first question.
It is possible that certain hon. Members or one hon. Member may wish to submit a minority report and that that report might be submitted to the House. I repeat, I should expect a Committee of this kind to contain some members who might be critical. I do not suggest that they should be jaundiced, but critical. If we were to conclude that the Committee would be so altered that its critical content would be undermined, I should do everything I could to ensure that the House expressed its view on the point. If any Member or Members wish to make a minority report, will it be submitted to the House? May we be assured that, for example, Members will not be dropped? We have nine Privy Councillors as members of the Committee, which I do not take as properly representative of this House. I am anxious that we should not be confronted by one or two other Members being dropped. I am prepared to accept the Committee as it is to be set up, but I should not be prepared to accept any change in its composition without making some protest.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
Earlier a question was raised whether the Select Committee should sit in public. I submit to you, Mr. Sneaker, and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, in the interests of the people and of right hon. and hon. Members, it should sit in public. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer now give us his reply?
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Barber
A number of hon. Members have raised the question whether the setting up of a Select Committee is the best way of dealing with this matter. This question was raised particularly by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). Having looked at the precedents, I believe that it is.
I assure those hon. Gentlemen who have been somewhat concerned that there should be a limited number of hon. Members on the Committee, that the Committee's report will, in due course, be made to the House, that there will be an 1542 opportunity for hon. Members to express views on the report, and that they will no doubt be taken into account by the House.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) complained that I, on behalf of the Government, would be putting forward certain proposals. But the object of that is to assist the Committee. At the end of the day it is for the Committee to decide what report it chooses to make. The Motion directsThat the several Papers presented this day relating to the Civil List be referred to the Committee".That reference is to statistical information, material which comprises an analysis of the Civil List expenditure since 1952, including information about the disposal of the contingencies margin established then and various matters that will be of assistance to the Committee.
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) raised a point about the form of the Motion and the wording concerning witnesses. We are following the precedents of 1947 and 1952 by empowering the Committee… to examine all witnesses who voluntarily appear before them, and to report to the House their observations …I should remind hon. Members, because this is of particular significance, that that form of words followed a review of procedure by the Officers of the House, it makes it clear that there will be evidence, even though, out of respect for the Crown, the witnesses who give it will appear voluntarily and not by compulsion.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Some of us raised these matters because we are concerned with the constitutional relationship to which the right hon. Gentleman is referring. We fully understand the difficulties about serving a subpoena on such witnesses. We now want to change the relationship and follow the pattern set by the Scandinavian countries. We are arguing for a change, not for following the precedents of 1947 and 1952. They are no good reasons for doing the same thing again. Now is the time for change. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman concede something here?
§ Mr. Barber
I see no point in making a concession on this aspect, because there is nothing to indicate that, after the review by the Officers of the House and the 1543 subsequent adoption of the words recommended, any difficulty was apparent to the Committee that considered these matters on a previous occasion. The circumstances here are exceptional. If this procedure has worked well in the past there is a very good reason for adopting it now.
The possibility of a minority report was raised by the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). This is a matter for the Select Committee, under the rules of order, taking into account the precedents. It is certainly not a matter for me, if the Committee should decide, in accordance with precedent, to elect me as its Chairman.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is inadvertently saying something which he has not had an opportunity to give full consideration to. As I have always understood the rules of Select Committees, it is not possible for a Select Committee under existing practice to issue a minority report, or for any member of it to do so. All that is possible is for Amendments to be moved to the proposed draft of the report. Those Amendments are voted on and then appear in the record of the proceedings.
§ Mr. Barber
Certainly that record appeared in the previous report and I have no doubt will appear in the report this time. I was telling the hon. Member for Motherwell that it is not a matter for me as the Member who may be elected as Chairman of the Select Committee to say what the Committee may or may not do. It is a matter for the rules of the House and precedent.
§ Mr. Lawson
Could not the right hon. Gentleman have discovered whether it was possible? My experience of another committee is that it is possible, in contradistinction to what the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said. Surely, we can learn before we go forward whether it is possible to attach to the report what could be seen as a minority report?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The House must not get too concerned about this matter. The Chairman of any Select Committee cannot prevent any member of it from moving an Amendment or an alternative report, which is in effect a 1544 minority report. There is no question of the Chairman's discretion. It can be moved by a member of the Committee. Although it is technically not a minority report, in effect it is, and it appears in the record.
§ Mr. Barber
That is what happened on previous occasions. It is obviously open to any hon. Member and those who support him in the Lobby to make their point in that way.
The hon. Members for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant) and St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) asked whether the Committee would sit in public. That is a matter for the Committee to decide. Hitherto it has always sat in private.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Yes, but my right hon. Friend will recall that Members of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords are enabled to attend the Committee as observers at any time, though they are bound by the rules of secrecy not to divulge what goes on. Mr. Speaker in the last Parliament ruled at the end of a particular Select Committee in 1969 that newspapers might divulge from any source from which they cared to obtain it information on what went on in the Committee in advance of the Committee's report. Mr. Speaker ruled that in the final stages when matters of impropriety were imputed.
§ Mr. Barber
Right hon. and hon. Members will have noted what my hon. Friend has said.
The question of the Queen's private resources was also raised. It will be appreciated that broadly speaking the object of the review is to enable the Queen to maintain an adequate standard of service to the nation. That is the matter we shall be considering. It has hitherto been thought to be an appropriate charge on public funds, but the Queen's resources in her private capacity do not come into this. Again, I believe rightly, we are following precedent.
A number of other questions were raised concerning the substance of the matter which is to be considered by the Select Committee. I am sure that they will be noted by the Select Committee, and will be taken into account in formulating its report.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I am a little alarmed by what the right hon. 1545 Gentleman said at the very end of his speech. Historically, when the monarch asked the House for aid the House was inclined to take the view that he should live on his own, and that involved maintaining all the public services. To go to the other extreme, where the monarch's own should be altogether ignored, takes the matter very much too far. After all, the monarch has resources in the form of the Civil List. She has resources in the form of tax privileges which should be considered, and a personal fortune and the result which those tax privileges have on that personal fortune.
If Her Majesty tells the House, "Owing to increased prices I should have a higher Civil List", which I understand she is doing, the House should also consider the other effect of those increased prices. If it should emerge that Her Majesty is richer today than she was 17 years ago, on the granting of the present amount, by some scores of millions of pounds, that is a matter which at least is relevant to the consideration of whether there should be increases.
This inquiry and this Select Committee will not carry conviction to this House and will in fact, do a disservice to it—I am a monarchist and I desire to see the popularity of our Royal House maintained—if there is something hidden under the counter into which we are not allowed to inquire, into which the public are not allowed to look, and about which all the newspapers can speculate, and doubtless exaggerate. I hope very much that that aspect will be considered, and that the questions of tax privilege and private fortune will be open to consideration by the Committee.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider his last few words. The right hon. Gentleman and I are probably in the same position. He is the hypothetical Chairman of the Select Committee and I am a hypothetical member of it. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can say anything here which can limit the inquiries of the Select Committee when it meets. There is no question but that a Select Committee is the master of its own proceedings. That is why we protect it with privacy, privilege, and so on. I should not like it to be thought that we could be inhibited in this way.
1546 If what has been said were to pass for fact, I should have to consider whether I could serve on the Select Committee at all. I must make that clear. I also want it known that nothing that the Chancellor says in this House limits the Select Committee, because this is not a Government affair, but a House of Commons affair and I know as well as anyone does how Select Committees work, and how they have worked over a long time. There are plenty of precedents for dissenting voices in the Committee and they have been recorded over the last century.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I underline the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Chairman-elect of the Select Committee, has a great responsibility in this matter, because he and the Government have been talking to trade unionists, have been urging independent inquiries, have been setting up independent inquiries, have been making sure that all the facts are presented, and have been making sure that the case is made known publicly. Trade unionists have had to face those issues at recent inquiries—such as Wilberforce, and others—and it is therefore only right that justice is seen to be done in the same way by this Select Committee.
The fact that a Select Committee is set up by the House does not alter the basis of the inquiry, because it, too, will be dealing with income, expenditure and responsibility, and in that regard it appears, from some other things that the Chancellor has said, that he has been trying to round off the edges. The Select Committee ought not to be seen in that light at all. It ought to examine all the facts and then make its recommendations, so that the House and the country can see everything that has been laid out by the Committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
The proposal is to set up a Select Committee to consider Her Majesty's most gracious Message of 19th May relating to the Civil List and other matters connected therewith. The interpretation of that must be a matter for the Select Committee, not for this House, 1547 and I think that it really would be out of order to have any further debate on it now.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Her Majesty's most gracious Message of 19th May relating to the Civil List and other matters connected therewith.
That the several Papers presented this day relating to the Civil List be referred to the Committee.
That the Committee do consist of Seventeen Members.
§ Motion made, That Mr. Joel Barnett, Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Chichester-Clark, Mrs. Peggy Fenner, Mr. W. W. Hamilton, Mr. Douglas Houghton, Mr. Roy Jenkins, Miss Joan Lestor, Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Mr. Charles Pannell, Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas, Mr. John Stradling Thomas, Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, Mr. Turton, Mr. William Whitelaw and Mr. Harold Wilson be Members of the Committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Question is,That Mr. Joel Barnett, Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Chichester-Clark, Mrs. Peggy Fenner, Mr. W. W. Hamilton—
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
Object. My objection is in conformity with the Amendment that I have tabled, and I shall limit what I have to say, because I understand that there is a certain restriction on me in any case.
I say at the outset that if the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) had not been selected for appointment to this Committee, and if I therefore had not objected to his nomination, he would have objected to the setting up of the Committee. One of the reasons why I object to the hon. Gentleman being appointed to the Committee has, I think, been made clear by the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), who said that it was right that this Select Committee should consist of hon. Members who would look at the 1548 proposals put before it with a certain amount of opposition—and I agree with that; I should not expect any Select Committee to be entirely one-sided—but he went on to say that there should be on the Committee hon. Members who were not entirely jaundiced.
I believe that the hon. Member for Fife, West is entirely jaundiced. I believe that he is a republican. He has expressed strong republican views.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not out of order falsely to accuse an hon. Member who has taken the oath of allegiance of being a republican? My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) has never declared himself to be a republican. He has taken the oath of allegiance. He is an honourable Member of this House. The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) should not be allowed to accuse my hon. Friend of being a republican, when he is a loyal Member of this House and has sworn the oath of allegiance.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the line of demarcation is very difficult to draw in discussing qualifications. It is in order to discuss qualifications, but any criticism of an hon. Member can be raised only on a substantive Motion. I think that if one went back to the last century one would realise that the idea that it was out of order to accuse an hon. Member of being a republican would seem very odd indeed. That allegation was frequently made. I think that the hon. Member who has the Floor of the House may proceed.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
I think that the hon. Member for Fife, West has declared himself on this issue on several occasions. He has made it clear that he is not in favour of any increase in the Civil List. I believe that he will sit on this Committee quite destructively. That is what I believe the situation to be, and that is my first reason for objecting to the hon. Gentleman's appointment to the Committee.
My second reason for objecting to his appointment is that he has been manoeuvred on to this Committee by 1549 the Leader of the Opposition who takes the view, "If you cannot get him to join, draft him". I think that the hon. Gentleman has been drafted on to this Committee on the basis that what he says in the Committee will be better said there than on the Floor of the House this day, which is when he would express his view were he not appointed to the Committee.
The Opposition are getting very adroit at manipulating Select Committees. A Select Committee is a matter for the House of Commons. It is not a matter for the Government or for the Front Bench opposite. I repeat that it is a matter for this House, and that the Opposition are getting too adroit at this kind of manipulation. For ideological reasons the Leader of the Opposition has drafted the hon. Member for Fife, West on to this Committee. This is the second time that this kind of thing has happened. A week or so ago it happened in the other direction. The Leader of the Opposition, acting through his Chief Whip, removed the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) from the Services Committee, for party disciplinary reasons. This is something that backbenchers have to watch very closely, for it is not right that Select Committees should be manipulated in this way.
My third reason for objecting to the hon. Gentleman's appointment is slightly more complex. It is because I am not certain that the hon. Gentleman will maintain confidentiality on this Committee.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Your predecessor ruled in 1969 that there was no confidentiality in a Select Committee. Permission was given for any Member of either House of Parliament to sit in on a Committee as an observer. Your predecessor distinctly ruled that the fact that the Daily Mail had published a trailer of what the Committee's report was to say was quite in order and that there was no breach of privilege. Does it not follow that no confidentiality at all is required in connection with a Select Committee?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is an interesting matter to be put in parenthesis. However, I do not think it is permissible to impute 1550 to another Member of the House that if he were to sit on a Committee whose proceedings were confidential he would break that confidence.
§ Mr. Lewis
I said that I expressed a doubt and I am prepared to withdraw it. However, I want first of all to quote why I believe there is some doubt, because I feel that this is relevant. I have waited for some time for this situation to arise.
On 24th July, 1968, the hon. Member for Fife, West made some remarks when the House was discussing a report of the Committee of Privileges. At the time the hon. Gentleman was Chairman of the Estimates Committee, and was a very good chairman under whom I sat as a member. I had heard that he proposed to get up in the House and suggest that it was all right for anybody in the House to give to the Press, in this instance the Observer newspaper, matters which related to the Estimates Committee. I asked him about his intentions on this matter, and as a result I resigned from that Committee—on which, incidentally, I enjoyed working.
In the course of that debate the hon. Gentleman said:What the Committee was discussing was a very secret, and in some respects very sinister, research establishment.I do not want to equate that passage with the Royal Household, though it may well be that the hon. Member for Fife, West would wish to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The passage goes on:At least there is a deep suspicion that a good deal of sinister activity is going on there, and my hon. Friend, rightly or not, thought it his duty to throw the light of publicity on to that establishment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1968; Vol. 769, c. 594.]He was referring there, of course, to a defence establishment. We see there the line being taken by the hon. Member for Fife, West. I would like to have an assurance that in this particular case he does not intend to use whatever documents he may have access to in the Select Committee in the same way, as appeared to be acceptable to him on that earlier occasion. It is for these three reasons that I object to the name of the hon. Member for Fife, West going forward for that Select Committee.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) has 1551 made a most offensive and ill-judged speech. I would never be against the rights of a minority voice being heard in this House—and I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman's is a minority voice —but it is unfortunate when such a voice seeks to misrepresent the views of somebody else, as has happened today. The hon. Gentleman's speech was lacking in any sense of historical perspective—as you, Mr. Speaker, were forced to point out—and in any sense of the feeling of the House itself.
I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) will be a most valuable member of this Committee. I believe that unless he wished to be a member of the Committee he would not have agreed to serve upon it. If the House is to follow the hon. Gentleman and seek to exclude a particular hon. Member, then this can be done on both sides of the House and at the end of the day we may not get a Select Committee. I hope that the House will not be disposed to follow that course, but will treat the hon. Gentleman's argument with a degree of contempt and will now proceed rapidly.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I wish to make a brief intervention to express my regret about the objection that has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). The three reasons he gave do not hold water. I hope that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) will exercise a self-denying ordinance and will not feel it necessary to make a reply himself, but will leave his defence in the hands of those who may be able to take a more impartial view of his merits. I know that he would lay no claim to royal blood, but he would not object to its being said of him that he has a noble nature. This is a case of noblesse oblige.
With regard to the point made by my hon. Friend about confidentiality, nobody who knows the hon. Member for Fife, West would consider that to be a point that he had any need to answer. I do not intend to refer further to that matter.
My hon. Friend also implied that the hon. Gentleman was drafted on to the Committee against his will as some kind 1552 of manoeuvre by the Leader of the Opposition. This both over-estimates the capacities of the Leader of the Opposition and under-estimates the powers of resistance of the hon. Member for Fife, West. If the hon. Member is on the Committee, it is because he wishes to serve on it and responded affirmatively to an invitation which was freely offered.
With regard to my hon. Friend's point about the qualifications of the hon. Gentleman to serve because of his views, the House knows that my view on that aspect could not be more opposed to the views held by the hon. Member for Fife, West. However, although the views held by the hon. Gentleman on the Civil List may be controversial, these are views which he honourably and sincerely holds. Indeed, this is a qualification for membership of the Committee rather than a disqualification. If the Committee has any point, it is to represent the whole conspectus of views to the House, whether of the majority or of the minority; and in the House of Commons the voice of a minority, however small, has a right to be respected and represented.
§ Mr. Barber
Since it fell to me to move the Motion, I should like to say to the House that I hope very much that at the end of the day, when we have disposed of this business, the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) will be a member of this Committee.
Mr. Eric S. Heifer (Liverpool, Walton)
I have only one comment to make. I also took part in the debate to which the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) referred. I, too, endeavoured to put up some defence for my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) who was involved in that incident. As a matter of fact, I disagreed with certain comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), who I thought was being a little too harsh on the hon. Member involved. This underlines the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, in defending the hon. Member concerned, was very clearly disagreeing with much that had happened. Therefore, it is scandalous that the hon. Gentleman should impute motives to my hon. Friend which do not exist. Such a speech should never be made in this House about another hon. Member.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
The hon. Gentleman can give it in politics; I hope he can take it, too. I resigned from a Committee because I disagreed strongly with the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), and I still feel very strongly about it. I simply emphasised in my speech, and I repeat it now, that on this Committee confidentiality is necessary.
No one is disagreeing with the hon. Member's right to come forward in this House to argue his point of view and to object to any other hon. Member. But the suggestion was that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West would not honour confidentiality and would give information away while the Committee was in progress and without the Committee's permission. That is a scandalous suggestion and misrepresents what happened previously.
This is a free House of Commons because Members of Parliament at a certain stage of history decided to oppose the Monarchy—in fact, decided to cut one monarch's head off. But for that we should not have a free House of Commons now. We might as well pack up as a House of Commons if we ever reach the stage where we cannot criticise the Monarchy or question the income of the Monarchy for which we are responsible. The whole basis of our parliamentary system was built on republicans fighting for the rights of the people against the Monarchy.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Atkinson
The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) has been answered, so I will confine my comments to the closing remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which make it more than ever necessary for my hon. Friend to be included on the Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's remarks were tantamount to an instruction to the Committee that it would not be within the terms of reference of the Committee to deal with the private income of the Royal Household.
It is because of the necessity to make a separation between the private income of the Royal Household and the private lives of the Royal Family, who are doing a public duty and being paid for it by the State, so as to get a fair tax arrangement that this matter should be debated 1554 as widely as possible. The Select Committee should therefore have the right to look into the private income and the tax arrangements.
It is not right for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to advise the House that the Select Committee will not go into these matters and will not have access to the papers. If tax concessions are granted by the nation to the Royal Family, the Committee must have access to this information, and from that point of view the House should insist on my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) being a member of the Committee, so that he can express the points which he has made so well to the House over many years.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
As one of the only four Members whom the House has so far appointed to the Committee, I express the hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) will not press his objection to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). The Committee, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, has in this day and age a difficult and delicate job to do, and it is important that it should be, and be seen to be, representative of all currents and colours of opinion in the House and in the country.
I happen to dislike the views of the hon. Member for Fife, West on the Monarchy almost as intensely as I am sure he dislikes mine, but it is important that those who hold my view and those who hold his view should be together on the Committee. The fact that the hon. Gentleman holds a view which is held only by a small minority, even on his side of the House, is all the more reason for his inclusion on the Committee. As Voltaire said, I say to the hon. Gentleman:I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.On the hon. Gentleman's personal position, I aim entitled to add one comment from experience. He was Chairman of the Estimates Committee in the last Parliament when I was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and I am in a good position, therefore, to say, if I may do so without impertinence, that the hon. Gentleman was a very fine and wholly reliable Chairman of the Estimates 1555 Committee, and he is well qualified in his personal capacity to serve on this or any other Select Commitee. The hon. Gentleman is a most reasonable man, used to hearing evidence. It may be that his experience on this Select Committee will prove highly educational.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchenge)
Like the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), I, too, have served on the Estimates Committee under the Chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) and I endorse everything the right hon. Gentleman has said about his chairmanship. Far from being likely to be in breach of confidence, my hon. Friend showed excessive regard for security.
No one who served under my hon. Friend on that Committee could possibly endorse the sentiments expressed in the rather nasty speech of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). I am sure my hon. Friend is not in the least worried about what the hon. Gentleman said, because two of the characteristics which were attributed to my hon. Friend are strong recommendations for his being on the Committee.
I endorse what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson). Before the debate is concluded, there is an obligation upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to clarify what he meant in his last few sentences. I should like to know whether the precedents he spoke of are generally accepted by the House. They may be accepted by both Front Benches, but they do not express the point of view of many back benchers, at least on this side of the House. When my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West joins his colleagues on the Committee, I do not want him to be in the position whereby, if the interpretation of the prospective Chairman's remarks is accepted by the Committee as being—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is not a matter for the House. The Motion before the House is to set up a Select Committee to consider the Civil List and other matters connected therewith. This interpretation of the terms of reference is a 1556 matter for the Select Committee, and, with great respect, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say this afternoon on that matter will not bind the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I will conclude in a moment or two. We are discussing the objection of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford to the appointment to the Select Committee of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West. I am advancing not only the reasons why I think that my hon. Friend should be on the Committee but also my apprehensions of the inhibiting effect upon his activities if the last words of the Chancellor's speech are to be interpreted by the Select Committee and the House in a way which would inhibit my hon. Friend or any other member of the Committee—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect to the hon. Member, he is entirely in order in dealing with the qualifications of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) but he is out of order when he talks of the terms of reference which it is for the Select Committee to interpret.
§ Mr. Griffiths
In that case, Mr. Speaker, in view of your Ruling, I conclude by saying that I hope that the members of the Select Committee will take note of what has been said in the debate. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend, when he gets on to the Committee, will seek to see that his colleagues have a wide-ranging investigation.
§ Question, That Mr. W. W. Hamilton be a member of the Committee, put and agreed to.
That Mr. Joel Barnett, Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Chichester-Clarke, Mrs. Peggy Fenner, Mr. W. W. Hamilton. Mr. Douglas Houghton, Mr. Roy Jenkins, Miss Joan Lestor, Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Mr. Charles Pannell, Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas, Mr. John Stradling Thomas, Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, Mr. Turton, Mr. William Whitelaw and Mr. Harold Wilson be Members of the Committee.
That the Committee have power to examine all witnesses who voluntarily appear before them, and to report to the House their observations on the matters referred to their consideration.
That Five be the Quorum of the Committee. —[The Chancellor of the Exchequer.]