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House Of Commons Official Report (Publication)

Volume 365: debated on Thursday 7 November 1940

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I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have any information to give the House in connection with the matter which I raised yesterday, namely, the delay which is at present taking place in the publication of the OFFICIAL REPORT Of the proceedings of this House and the inconvenience which is being caused thereby to Members of this House an dto the public?

Yes, I have had further opportunities of making more inquiries into this matter. It appears to me that the reason for the delay is the excessive length of the time that the works cannot be used. Hon. Members must realise that if the House requires to have the REPORT, for certain, at a much earlier hour, the Government will have to acquire fresh premises for the printers. Whether they are prepared to do that or not, I could not say, but that is the position.

On that point, may I say, Mr. Speaker, that I have been informed by an hon. Member of this House that he could furnish half a dozen printers in London at the present time who could have this REPORT ready within a few hours of the termination of the sittings of the House. In connection with Tuesday's proceedings, the REPORT was not available in the Vote Office until four o'clock yesterday afternoon. I submit to you, Sir, and to the Prime Minister and the Government, that this is a matter of extreme inconvenience, not only to hon. Members who attend here from day to day, but also to other hon. Members who are precluded from attending.

I am prepared to agree that that is the case and that there may be inconvenience to Members, and I am also prepared to agree that a great many printers could bring out the REPORT very much more quickly, but they would not do so in premises such as those occupied by the present printers. That is the difficulty.

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you are aware that there is a certain number of Members in tins House who do not wish to make mountains out of molehills, and who are prepared, in view of the exigencies of the war, to submit to a certain amount of inconvenience?

Is the House aware that the printers work right up to the last possible moment in the production of this REPORT; that they are working in an exceedingly vulnerable area and a place which has frequently been damaged; that quite a number of printers in London have already been smashed up and that there is no kind of guarantee that any printers will be exempt? Surely, the safety of the men who are doing the job should be put against any slight inconvenience which may have been caused.

I submit that this is not a case of the House of Commons being unreasonable. On the other hand, I understand that the reason why the REPORT is not printed earlier is because there are not adequate premises at the disposal of the printers. Is it not possible to get more suitable and safer premises in which to produce the OFFICIAL REPORT? Must the privileges of this House always be the first to be invaded, when any inconvenience is caused anywhere? We ought to put up with inconvenience if it is absolutely necessary, but only if it is absolutely necessary. The business of this House should be conducted as efficiently as possible if we, as Members, are to do our job properly.

Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that to-day even the half-sheets which Members send to the local Press and to people interested—as for example those dealing with the question of prisoners of war raised on Tuesday last—are not yet available and that newspapers in various localities will not therefore be able to get them?

I should like to call attention to another aspect of this matter. While the exigencies caused by present circumstances may keep Members waiting a certain time for their copies of the OFFICIAL REPORT, I think it is fair to remind hon. Members that the postal authorities have let us down very badly and that letters which normally should be delivered in 12 hours or at most 24 hours are now five days on the way.

As far as the matter rests in the responsibility of the Government, I will concern myself in it and consider whether other premises can be obtained in a reasonable time which will meet the requirements of the House.