Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 413: debated on Friday 24 August 1945

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Friday, 24th August, 1945

The House met at Eleven o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Manchester Ship Canal Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Lend-Lease Contracts (Cancellation)

I propose, with the permission of the House, to make a statement about Lend-Lease.

I am informed that the President of the United States has issued a directive exercising his powers under the Lend-Lease Act to order all outstanding Lend-Lease contracts to be cancelled and to provide that stocks and deliveries procured under the Act must now be paid for either in cash or through credit arrangements to be negotiated. I understand that this applies to stocks of food and other supplies already in this country, as well as to those in transit or to be delivered under existing contracts. There is, however, an indication of a possible continuance of a limited range of Lend-Lease for military purposes.

The House will, I think, expect me to make some statement about the resulting situation. The system of Lend-Lease from the United States, Mutual Aid from Canada, and the accumulation of sterling by the sterling area countries have been an integral part of the war organisation of the Allies. In this way it has been made possible for us in this island to mobilise our domestic man-power for war with an intensity unsurpassed elsewhere, and at the same time to undertake expenditure abroad on the support of military operations over a widely extended area, without having to produce exports to pay for our imports of food and raw materials or to provide the cash we were spending abroad. The very fact that this was the right division of effort between ourselves and our Allies leaves us, however, far worse off, when the sources of assistance dry up, than it leaves those who have been affording us the assistance. If the role assigned to us had been to expand our exports so as to provide a large margin over our current needs which we could furnish free of charge to our Allies, we should, of course, be in an immeasurably stronger position than we are to-day.

We had not anticipated that operations under the Lend-Lease Act would continue for any length of time after the defeat of Japan. But we had hoped that the sudden cessation of this great mutual effort, which has contributed so much to victory, would not have been effected without consultation, and prior discussion of the difficult problems involved in the disappearance of a system of so great a range and complication. We can, of course, only demobilise and reconvert gradually, and the sudden cessation of a support on which our war organisation has so largely depended, puts us in a very serious financial position.

Excluding altogether the munitions which we have been receiving under Lend-Lease and Canadian Mutual Aid and will no longer require, our overseas outgoings on the eve of the defeat of Japan were equivalent to expenditure at the Tate of about £2,000,000,000 a year, including the essential food and other non-munitions supplies which we have received hitherto under Lend-Lease but must now pay for. Towards this total in the present year, 1945, our exports are contributing £350,000,000 and certain sources of income, mainly temporary, such as receipts from the U.S. Forces in this country and reimbursements from the Dominions for war expenditure which we have incurred on their behalf, £450,000,000. Thus the initial deficit with which we start the task of re-establishing our own economy and of contracting our overseas commitments is immense.

As I have said, we have not yet had an opportunity of discussing the resulting situation with the U.S. Administration. Mr. Brand, the Treasury representative in Washington, has, however, received a letter from the Foreign Economic Administrator inviting us to enter into immediate conversations to work things out in the manner which will best pro- mote our mutual interests. I am, therefore, inviting Lord Halifax to return to Washington accompanied by Lord Keynes and Mr. Brand and officials of the other Departments to take part in such conversations.

Reciprocal aid on the part of the United Kingdom, or Reverse Lend-Lease as it is sometimes called, which, according to the Reciprocal Aid Agreement with the United States, is; provided on the same terms as Lend-Lease aid, will of course conform to the same dates of partial or complete termination as Lend-Lease. I much hope, however, that the President will accept arrangements by which shipping and food and any other supplies still required by our Forces overseas and by the American Forces overseas can continue to be furnished for a limited period under the Lend-Lease and Reciprocal Aid Agreements respectively. It would seem reasonable to regard such supplies and services arising directly out of the war as belonging to the common war effort, and, as I have said, there is an indication in the communication which has reached us that the American Administration may so regard them.

I earnestly hope that the House, in view of the fact that negotiations on these complicated issues axe about to start, will agree that the matter should not be the subject of Debate to-day.

The very grave and disquieting statement which the Prime Minister has just made to us must overshadow our minds. I agree with him entirely that a Debate of a discursive character arising before these issues have been properly weighed by the House might easily be detrimental to our national interest, which always must claim the allegiance of Members wherever they sit, and I think I can give my assurance on behalf of the hon. Gentlemen who are associated with me on this side of the House that we shall not touch upon this matter in the forthcoming Debate on the Adjournment. Words or phrases might be used which would hamper the task of our negotiators in the difficult matters which lie before them. I think the utmost restraint should be practised, not only in the House, but, if I may say so, also out of doors, in all comments on the American situation at the present time. I cannot believe that it is the last word of the United States; I cannot believe that so great a nation whose Lend-Lease policy was characterised by me as "the most unsordid act in the history of the world," would proceed in a rough and harsh manner to hamper a faithful Ally, the Ally who held the fort while their own American armaments were preparing.

I think we might have no interruption from the hon. Gentleman who seats himself in such an unsuitable position. I say that I hope indeed that this very great burden and strain will be eased as a result of the discussions which are proceeding, and I give my support to the Prime Minister in the request he has made to the House.

Message From The Lords

That they have passed a Bill, intituled "An Act to make temporary provision for the inclusion in electoral rolls in India of persons returned from war service, to relax residence qualifications for those persons and to extend certain Indian franchise qualifications which depend on service in His Majesty's forces or on the award of a pension."—[Indian Franchise Bill] [ Lords.]

Indian Franchise Bill Lords

Read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Tuesday, 9th October, and to be printed. [Bill 8.]

Business Of The House

Proceedings on Government Business and on any Motion for the Adjournment of the House moved by a Minister of the Crown exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House).—[ The Prime Minister.]

Procedure

11.15 a.m.

It might be for the convenience of the House if, before I call on the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, I pointed out that I think it would be better if we had a general Debate on the first paragraph of the Motion. That would cover most of the Amendments which are down on the Paper and which subsequently might be called purely for Division if necessary and not for further discussion.

On a point of Order, Sir. Does that mean you do not intend to call the Amendments?

I have indicated that I will call them, I would say here that the Amendment in the name of the hon. Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) is in the wrong place and should come at the end of line 17, and that is where I propose to call it, not for discussion, because it could be discussed before then, but for Division, if necessary.

11.17 a.m.

I beg to move,

"That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Procedure in the Public Business of this House and to report what alterations, if any, are desirable for the more efficient despatch of such business."
When I told the House last week that the Government intended to propose the appointment of a Select Committee on Procedure and that we should ask the Committee to consider as a matter of urgency, and report on as soon as possible after proper consideration, the procedure of the House and its Standing Committees upstairs, I said that I thought this proposal was right because the country expect out of this Parliament five years of hard labour and they expect those five years of hard labour to be carried through wth proper efficiency coupled with the maintenance of all the essential rights and principles of Parliamentary government. I should hope, indeed, that there will be no serious difference of opinion about the wisdom of the Motion and an inquiry and report on the procedure of the House in regard to Public Business. I do not think it raises any party issues or that it is fundamentally controversial. It seems to me desirable from the point of view of all sections of the House, and indeed of the people at large, that at this time we should set up a committee to look into our procedure on Public Business.

There was a Debate, which was initiated by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), on 26th May, 1944, in which there was a good deal of support for an inquiry of the kind which I am now proposing on behalf of the Government. I ask the House to approve the Motion not simply because our legislative programme is heavy—and that will be clear to hon. Members from the study which they have made of the proposals contained in the Gracious Speech—though the heaviness of the legislative programme is, of course, in itself a strong reason, but also because as, I hope, a good Parliamentarian, I am anxious, as I said last Thursday, that all the essential rights and principles of Parliamentary government should be maintained, and, I may add, the reputation of this great Parliamentary institution reinforced both at home and throughout the world; for our proceedings, I think we can claim, are looked up to as a model of good Parliamentary procedure in other countries in the world. This can only be done, and our high reputation maintained, if Parliament shows itself equal to the task before it which indeed is a truly formidable one, and must be so during the reconstruction period. The issue which is before the House was, I think, put very well in the notable speech which the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham made in May, 1944, in the Debate which he initiated. The Noble Lord said:
"This is the greatest unfettered sovereign law-making body in the world. There is no Supreme Court here, as there is in the United States, to dispute the validity of the laws we pass; and another place has been largely deprived of its powers to interfere with the laws we pass. Surely, the immense responsibility which is thus placed upon our shoulders involves us in an obligation to ensure that our procedure is equal to our needs and the country's needs, and that we are not—as we now are, in some respects—shrouded in the grave-clothes of a dead and vanished past. Hon. Members should not fear the possibility that, in a matter of this kind, some cherished ideals, which have hitherto been held in high regard, must be abandoned. Surely, the only question is whether, with the majesty and the prestige by which it is surrounded at the present time, it can, or cannot, do its business properly.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1944; Vol. 400, c. 1076.]
I think that statement by the noble Lord was an admirable statement of the case for the Motion which I have moved, and I think he rendered a service to the House at that time, by taking the initiative in regard to this matter on the Floor of the House. One of the reasons for the extraordinary adaptability of our Parliamentary system to changing circumstances has been the flexibility of our procedure, and in the past the House has kept its procedure under constant examination and re-examination. Indeed, the wonderful thing about our Parliamentary institution, studying its history over the centuries, has been its adaptability to changing needs and changing conditions. Some may think that many changes have not come as quickly as they might, and that perhaps we might have adapted our procedure earlier to meet modern conditions; but apart from that, it is undoubtedly the case that the House has never regarded its procedure or its practices as static or fixed, but has regarded them as adaptable and subject to modification in the light of experience.

If I may mention only major occasions, there have been at least six general reviews of Parliamentary procedure during the present century and many others of lesser importance. There were the Balfour reforms of 1902, which were followed by important changes in procedure in 1907 and 1909, during what, I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will agree, was the great Parliament of 1906 to 1910. As a. result of that consideration then further changes and modifications were made. In 1913 the Whittaker Committee was set up, but owing to the war there were no practical results from that Committee until 1919. Then, in circumstances somewhat similar to those which face us now, the House resumed its examination of procedure and the Government put forward proposals which were intended to save the time of the House, to accelerate the progress of business and to improve the desirable opportunities of criticism and of Parliamentary debate and discussion.

In the twenties of this century a number of inquiries on particular points took place, and in 1931 the last general review was begun by a Select Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Ernest Brown. Effect was given to some but not to all of the recommendations which Mr. Brown's Committee made. The interval since the last general review of procedure—that is to say, from 1931 to 1945, namely, 14 years—is thus, judged by the history of the present century, rather on the long side than on the short, and in view of that, it really is time that there should be a further review. The need for examining our procedure afresh is the greater both because of this lapse of time, as well as the immensity of the legislative and other work which confronts us at the end of the war, and because of the tremendous changes, affecting Parliament no less than the nation as a whole, since 1931.

If we are to get on with the heavy labours that face us, whether from the point of view of the Government or from the point of view of the House, if we are to get on with our job without delays which might be prejudicial both to the national interest and to the reputation of our Parliamentary institutions, it is essential that the Select Committee should lose no time in starting its work. The Motion accordingly proposes to empower the Committee to sit during the Recess and to instruct them to report as soon as possible upon any scheme for the acceleration of the proceedings on Public Bills which His Majesty's Government may submit to them. It would not be in place for me to detail the Government's proposals, but it may help the House if I say that we felt that it would help the Committee to be supplied with our provisional ideas of possible changes. I am able to add, with the agreement of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his friends, whom we have consulted—and I want to be perfectly fair about the way in which I put this point—that the proposals we intend to submit to the Committee are proposals which were drafted by a Committee of Ministers in the Coalition Government. I hasten to add that the Government as a whole were in no way committed to those proposals and certainly the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was, and as far as I know is, in no way committed to them.

Nor was the Cabinet. The Cabinet as a whole was in no way committed to them; but much useful work was done, and in our judgment proposals came from the Committee that were worthy of examination, and we thought that, although we do not wish to be committed to them in detail or even in extent, they were a very good body of proposals which were eminently worthy of consideration by the Select Committee. Therefore, within the limitations which I have indicated, we have adopted them, and it will be those proposals which we will put to the Select Committee which, of course, will report fully upon them in due course.

Am I right in understanding the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government's proposals will not go further than those to which he has referred and which were the subject of discussions by a Committee in the days of the Coalition Government?

The right hon. Gentleman is right. The document we shall put to the Select Committee will be exactly the document which came from the Committee in the Coalition Government. From no point of view is anybody thereby circumscribed.

The right hon. Gentleman is referring to a document which apparently is known to some right hon. Gentlemen. Would it not be proper for the whole House to be made aware at once of those proposals?

I have no doubt the whole House will be made aware of the proposals. That is for the Select Committee, but I should think it probable that the Select Committee would publish the document.

On a point of Order. Is it not correct to say that if a document is referred to by a right hon. Gentleman in this House, it has to be laid on the Table?

That document does not fall within the category of documents which must be produced to the House.

Clearly the opinion of the House upon this Motion will be influenced by the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. Surely, it is now, and not after we have passed the Motion, that we should be informed of the details of the proposals.

With great respect. I do not agree. The question before the House is whether a Select Committee on Procedure should be appointed. I thought it right, as a matter of courtesy, and with the assent of the Opposition, that I should tell the House the kind of thing we have in mind as far as the existence of a body of proposals is involved, but clearly the time for discussing the merits of those proposals, together with the report of the Select Committee, will be when the Select Committee brings its report to the House, and I should think it highly probable that the Select Committee will reproduce that document, or at any rate all the essentials of it. The Select Committee is, of course, in no way fettered. It will be perfectly free in considering the Government's proposals and perfectly free if it wishes to make proposals of its own.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he intends to accept the Amendment which has been put down from this side of the House, that the minutes of the proceedings should also be made public, in the report of the Committee?

Hon. Members might wish to move their Amendments, but in view of the fact that, though we are in a general discussion, Mr. Speaker has indicated that we might decide on the Amendments formally when we get to them, perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman would like me to do, I might indicate now the Government's attitude to the Amendment about the publication of minutes of the proceedings day by day as they become available.

I think it would be helpful. The statement on the first paragraph of the Motion could not really be fully envisaged without knowledge of the Government's intentions with regard to this Amendment.

Before I have finished, I will deal with the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.

Apart from the merits of the scheme, could the right hon. Gentleman give some indication of what this document contains?

I am in the hands of the House, but I should think that on the whole it would be inconvenient. I do not wish in that way to prejudice the deliberations of the Committee, and if the House sets up that Committee, one does not want to give them marching orders. We merely put proposals before the Committee for the convenience of the Committee and it would be inappropriate at this stage that we should discuss those actual proposals. The situation which is before us to-day, including the discussions which took place in a former Government, is curiously analogous to something which took place in the 19th century under Mr. Gladstone, and the consultations we have had with the Opposition are not dissimilar to consultations that he had with Sir Michael Hicks-Beech. Therefore, I would mention to the House what Mr. Gladstone said in 1886, when the Government of the day took over proposals for reforming its procedure and when it put these proposals before a Select Committee in circumstance not quite exactly similar, but something like those in which we are making our proposal today. Mr. Gladstone summed up the reasons for doing so in happier language than I could possibly aspire to. He said:

"It is really an acknowledgment which we feel to be due to the spirit in which the subject was considered by the laic Government and that we should not make what would be an unfair and untrue appearance of setting up a rival plan when we do not propose a rival plan.''
That is very much the situation to-day.

The difference, of course, is that in that case the previous Government were publicly committed to the scheme whereas that would not be a true description of the position of the right hon. Gentleman's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition: asked me to indicate the views of the Government with regard to the Amendment which has been put down by various Members of the Official Opposition. That Amendment, which is the second on the Paper, asks, as I understand if, that the minutes of evidence taken before the Committee shall be published day by day, as soon as they are available. I take it that the idea is that thereby the House would be kept informed of the proceedings of the Select Committee and, as a consequence, when the. Report from the Select Committee reached the House, the minds of hon. Members would be enriched by the knowledge of the proceedings to a greater extent than might otherwise be possible. I have carefully considered that Amendment. I think it is a reasonable proposal, and I would advise the House that the Amendment should be accepted.

With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member the Junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) and some of his hon. Friends, it does not seem to me, with great respect, that the Amendment is necessary. The Select Committee will deal with the procedure governing Public Business, and Private Members' Bills are part of Public Business. It seems, therefore, that the Amendment would be redundant. Moreover, although it is competent for the Select Committee to deal with the matter if it wishes, nevertheless, the periodic struggle over Private Members' time is usually a matter between the House and the Government itself, and I doubt whether it would be useful. However, the Committee will be free, if it wishes, to deal with the matter, but I would not advise the House to adopt the Amendment. That is, briefly stated—and I have been very brief—the case for the appointment of the Select Committee, and having stated that case, I trust that the House will accept the Motion. Finally, I am sure that the House would wish the Select Committee, if it is appointed, all success in the important duties which will be committed to it.

11.37 a.m.

It is natural that when a new Parliament comes together, especially when it is the successor of a ten-year Parliament, it should wish to review the procedure of the House in the light of the movements of modern opinion, and of the circumstances of the time in which we live. Therefore, it is not our intention on this side to oppose the appointment of a Select Committee, nor shall we discourage Members on this side from taking full part in its deliberations. There was, of course, a good deal of anxiety because of the various declarations which have been made by leading members of the Ministerial Party, at different periods in their careers, about what they would do to Parliament when they attained a majority and all the dangerous and pernicious talk about Enabling Bills which, proceeding on the basis of one or two votes of the House, would enable great Measures to be passed into law, and then handed over for administration entirely to the executive Government, subject only to correction by the House by a vote of want of confidence or by the annulment of certain Orders which might be laid upon the Table.

All that caused a great deal of despondency and alarm when the right hon. Gentleman announced his intention to set up this Committee, on the very day that he took, with one sweep, all the time of Private Members away for the entire Session, which lasts about 15 months. However, I must admit—and I gladly do so—that the statement which he has made, that the present proposal of the Government will not go beyond the draft documen which is in existence, and which was prepared by one of the Committees of the late Coalition Government, does exclude a whole mass of extremely perilous and disastrous proposals which we had been given to believe might be thrust upon us, and which found no small backing in various speeches which the right hon. Gentleman delivered on these very subjects, in the period when he was a member of my Administration. I did not like those speeches at the time, and I would be very sorry to see them translated into full action at the present moment. This question of the draft document naturally excited comment from below the Gangway. The House does not know what is in this document. I did not know what was in it, until I looked it up during the course of the present Session. It was one of those numerous topics which-were discussed between the Ministers of both Parties, at a time when we were working together against a common enemy. It had not come, in that way, to the notice of the War Cabinet, nor was I informed about it, except that proposals for changes in Procedure were being discussed, and as soon as I heard that, I said it would be much better to leave that task for the new Parliament, and I gave an answer to a Question on that subject to the House.

But the House is certainly at a disadvantage in discussing this matter to-day without having the outline of the Government's proposals before it. The Motion says that it is to be an instruction to the Committee that they are to give priority to discussion of those proposals. I would not have thought it inappropriate if the right hon. Gentleman had told us what those proposals are. However, our time is limited and if that information had been laid before the House, I suppose our Debate would certainly have continued all to-day, and an additional Sitting would have been required to-morrow. That is not a decisive argument, but the Government have decided not to give us the information. On the other hand, they have made a concession which has a bearing on this. They will, for instance, accept the Amendment indicated, which stands in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Finchley (Captain Crowder) and other hon. Gentlemen, and that means that, as soon as the Committee meets, after it has had its first few discussions on its own procedure or whatever is necessary, these proposals, which are to have priority, will be made public. I cannot think that they would not be made public. I do not feel committed to them in any way. It is certainly very proper that they should be examined by a Select Committee, and that we should be able to follow, from day to day, the evidence which is given before that Committee, so far as the Press may publish it. I understand that some circulation of it will be made even in the Recess. Is that not so?

Then we shall be able to follow the matter from day to day, and form our opinion gradually; we shall be going over the same ground in our minds as the Committee is going over in discussions at the moment, and we shall be abreast of the Committee, when proposals have to be laid before the House. Therefore, I think the House would be well advised to assume that a statement of these proposals is not essential to the discussions that we are to have to-day, and that we can set up the Committee, and await the Committee's method of imparting to us what are the matters before it.

Without in any way committing myself to these proposals, I certainly feel relieved that they are the limit of what His Majesty's Government propose. This House is not only a machine for legislation; perhaps it is not even mainly a machine for legislation, it is a great forum of Debate, and the process of legislation is not necessarily smooth because it is rapid or violent. The House ought to have the opportunity of moulding and shaping the laws which afterwards have to be obeyed by the people. The people give their obedience to the laws of this country to an extent remarkable, almost renowned. The people have been renowned for their obedience to law, but that is because the law comes to them from a Parliament which they themselves have chosen, and because it is believed that all views have had a fair chance of expression in that Parliament, that the minority as well as the majority have been able to put their hand upon the legislative proposals. While the Government of the day naturally carry their own programme, the legislation which emerges from our discussions is not simply party legislation, but legislation which bears the stamp of Parliamentary influence. Therefore, it would be a great mistake to think that all you have to do to improve the procedure of the House of Commons is to make it able to turn out the largest number of Bills in the shortest amount of time. That is all right if you are working a sausage factory; it is not quite the same in regard to matters which affect the lives and happiness of vast numbers of people throughout the country. And it is also in the interests of the Government, that their Bills should be really tested and sifted in Parliament, because, otherwise, all kinds of things slip through, which give needless offence when put into operation, and involve the Government in needless discredit.

Also, the House has a function not merely of passing Bills, but of stopping bad Bills from passing, or at any rate mitigating their effects, having due regard to the prevailing strength of the majority of the day. All this is part of our House of Commons system of life. I am very much impressed with this new House of Commons, with the pin-drop silence in which they listen to all speeches from all parties, and from all parts of the House, and with the earnestness and gravity with which the very large numbers of new Members here are evidently determined to approach the serious and important tasks with which they are charged. I should deeply have regretted if any violent Measure of driving legislation through had smitten the House in a grievous manner at the very outset of the new Parliament. I think that it is not only, as I said, a question of legislation. The House is also a forum of Debate and in many ways that is more important, because we have to hold our position in the world. That very largely depends upon the respect which is shown to the House of Commons which no other country—I say it with all respect—has been able to surpass or even, some may think, to rival. There never has been an Assembly of such great powers, which has shown so much restraint in the using of them. Unlike the French Assembly of bygone days, the House has not attempted to govern; it has left that to the Executive Government, and has confined itself to the functions of supervision, correction, and, in the last resort, to the removal of Ministers, if they have thought it desirable.

I think there could be more elasticity introduced into our procedure. The Government have chosen one particular branch of our procedure which they wish to examine in priority, but I hope also the Committee will examine the question of whether we cannot have more general Debates, without prejudice to the necessary routine business. In the last Parliament before the war, there was some talk of Adjournments being moved once or twice a week, on the burning topics of the day, and a Debate proceeding at once upon them—it being, of course, understood that the Government got their Vote at the end of the Sitting, just as if the whole time had been spent on discussing that Vote. This would only be a reversion to the old procedure when, as is well known, each day. Members arrived with petitions from the country on particular subjects and, if the House was inclined, it took up one of those subjects and discussed it at once. However the Government got their essential business, their Supply, and all the routine Measures irrespective of these Debates.

I am most anxious that that process of general discussions should be widened. If the House is not able to discuss matters which the country is discussing, which fill all the newspapers, which everyone is anxious and preoccupied about, it loses its contact; it is no longer marching step by step with all the thought that is in progress in the country. Therefore we should save as much time as we can from routine matters, for the purpose of enabling large Debates to take place. I think it will be generally admitted that in the Coalition Government, even during the war, a very large number of occasions were given for discussion of general matters, and it was also arranged that at the end of the discussion the state of Government Business was not prejudiced—in which the Chief Whip naturally had to take a very great interest. It seems to me also that five or six days are wasted on Supplementary Estimates with very poor results. Very small sums are involved, compared to the vast scale of our Budget, and yet discursive Debates arise on the Estimates. Time might be saved on that.

I have one other view which, if I had shaped this Motion, I would have added as an instruction to the Committee. Would it not be well for us to try to revise our method of examining Estimates? We have the Public Accounts Committee which reports upon irregularities of expenditure after they have occurred, but there are the Estimates of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and certain other large spending Departments which are brought before the House on the various Supply Days, as requested through the usual channels. It would be a very great advantage, in my opinion—and I speak after 42 years of active service in this House—if, for instance, the Army Estimates were examined rapidly in two or three sittings by a Committee, a dozen or 20 Members, representing all parties in due proportion, who would focus the points of criticism, or the issues which have to be raised. Then the Estimates would come, in due course, before the House. There would be no interference with Ministerial responsibility by having a short report from such a Committee. This would, I think, make the discussions much more informal than they are when they consist simply of individual statements by Members on matters in connection with a particular Department in which they are interested.

I hope the Committee will not, because priority is: asked for the Government's proposals, feel themselves in any way inhibited from entering upon other matters which would improve the efficiency of our procedure. I hope they will also see in what way time can be saved on routine business, in order to repay the House for its concessions in regard to that routine business, by a more liberal employment of the power to discuss matters of general interest. We must not regard this House as a mere treadmill. The importance to the people of the power and popularity, and I may say the drama of the House, is very great. Nothing could be worse than that the House should cease to command the active interest of the great masses of people throughout the country. Everything should be done to make sure that it does that.

I quite recognise that the complications in our affairs are vastly increased and that necessary legislation must be passed. It may be that the Committee will find some method of speeding up the procedure. It may be that they will find these methods without injuring the freedom and the power of the House as a whole, to deal with legislation and without injuring the character of our Parliamentary life. I therefore wish the Committee God speed in its work. I must also say this, that the best way of speeding legislation is the tact of the Leader of the House and the good will of the House as a whole. We are not going to hamper what we consider necessary legislation for the great process of transition through which we are passing. But the leadership of the House of Commons is an intense and searching test of any man's nature and character, and this must become apparent in his prolonged and intimate relations with the House. It would be no use to try to supply any defect in leadership by rough dragooning methods, or by getting Committees to pass all kinds of rigid restrictions on Debate because, in my experience, what is thus gained on the swings, is very often lost on the roundabouts. There ought to be fair, reasonable and tolerant leadership of the House. We shall see, as this Parliament advances, whether we are to have that or not. I am sure it is the general hope that we may be so advantaged, that we may be so fortunate. It will be our continuous object and desire, not always attainable, to carry the great mass of reasonable opinion with the Government of the day, on all matters on which we are not sundered by party differences.

12.0 noon.

It is with some diffidence that I find myself addressing the House to-day from a rather different angle from that which I have been privileged to occupy recently, but my task is made all the easier, because I find myself very largely in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion. One thing, which I noticed about his remarks, was his reference to Mr. Gladstone, and 1886. For a considerable time I have noticed his tendency to go back to those days. Whether that is right or wrong, I do not know, but it is interesting to watch the reversion. I think those of us who have watched the proceedings of this House in the last years, who realise the immense length of the last Parliament, and how long has passed since we last had an inquiry of this sort, recognised it as inevitable that we should set up an inquiry into the whole of our methods of procedure. In this House procedure has been based on either practice or form, but there is nothing sacred about it. There is nothing which we cannot alter, and there is nothing which should not be altered to suit the convenience of the House of Commons and is in accordance with the desire of the people as a whole.

That is as far as practice and form are concerned, but in connection with this Motion, there is one thing about the House of Commons which we should endeavour to protect throughout all time. That is the contact of the electors with the machine of Government through the ordinary Private Member. That, I believe, is one of the most essential parts of our work. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, that we should have more chances for big Debates on vital matters, of which there has been an obvious lack in the past. On the other hand, those who have watched the work of Private Members who do not always take part in our great Debates have seen them exercise a great influence in the House. Perhaps I might give one illustration. Those of us who listened to the speeches made during the last 20 years by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), on all sorts of subjects, realised that he had an intensely close contact with the people of his own coun- try, that he spoke with enormous sincerity, and that again and again, whether supporting or opposing legislation, he exercised a very good influence on the Government as a whole, as a. Private Member. That is the kind of thing which it is essential to preserve. Further, I have noticed a very singular likeness between this Parliament and that of 1918, in its seriousness, in its close contact with the Services, and in many other ways. From this a danger arose. We rushed through an enormous amount of legislation and then had to reverse the machine. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite know that I am no well-wisher of their Government, but I hope that they realise that, whatever party is in power, there is something to put above party, and that is the House of Commons and the people as a whole.

We should be very careful, in setting up this Committee, to see that it has the guiding intention of safeguarding and improving the procedure of the House of Commons. This is a wide Motion, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman who moved it has indicated that he will accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friends. That is a helpful sign. Frankly I am a little worried about the tail of the proposal. That is where I see difficulties. The Government have their own plan. What I want to know, and what the House would like to know, is whether when those plans are published—and that is not clear yet—we are to consider those Government plans in this House separately, or are to consider them with a considerable amount of other evidence? Shall we have a fairly wide report, taking in other points of view, and is this House, before settling its procedure, to have some knowledge, in making that judgment, of the position not only from the Government's point of view, but from other points of view as well? That is important. There art: many new Members in this House who, in the next three or four months, will probably learn our ways with remarkable rapidity, and will be able, say, by about Christmas, to form a rather good judgment of how we work. But there were also Members in the last Parliament who knew little of the working of the House of Commons, and there are Members like myself, who have had experience both before and during the war and who would like to refresh our minds and ideas on the working of Parliament in the future.

Every one of us would be helped if we could get a wider understanding of Parliamentary affairs at the present time. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council can assure us that nothing will be done to force ideas on to the House and that every Member will have the chance of learning how the House of Commons is likely to operate. If the Government do that, they will get through their work with greater expedition. I also hope that on this matter of procedure, we shall be able to reach agreement between the various parties—because it affects us all. I hope we shall be able to reach agreement on these matters which will facilitate the working of Parliament, for a long time ahead.

12.10 p.m.

All in the House are agreed that some examination of our methods of procedure is necessary, but it is not so easy to agree upon what changes can be made. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion told us that there had been at least six general inquiries into procedure in this century, and it was interesting to hear the Leader of the Opposition to-day put practically the same points which he put before a Select Committee in 1931. Those points are still important enough to be raised in 1945. That Select Committee of 1931 failed to implement the evidence which was given, or the recommendations that were made, and it is still left for the House of Commons to devise some way of making its procedure work in accordance with the demand.

As has been said, there is nothing sacrosanct about the Rules of the House. In the past, we have had legislation which devoted great attention to detail and routine. In the nineteenth century we had greater flexibility of Debate, which devoted greater attention to detail. The change in the nineteenth century was probably greater than that of the twentieth century. There were the inventions of gas and electricity and railways, and other social changes. The House did not begrudge the time given to details of these matters. The twentieth century produced a dividing line between principle and detail. If you look at what the House did in the twentieth century, you will find that it treated as matters of detail matters which should have been regarded as matters of high policy. Let me take one right for which we fought—the right of trial by jury. That has been regarded as a matter of detail in the twentieth century, in that control of it has been vested in the Executive and not in this House. Take the financial crisis of 1931 which was resolved, according to the Report of the Donoughmore Committee, by passing six Acts dealing with financial matters, and giving to the Executive a large measure of control of taxation which should have been in the control of this House. Surely, matters of taxation are not matters of detail; they are matters of principle which should be kept within the authority of this House alone.

If one examines, for instance, the volume of legislation and change in the nature of legislation in recent years, particularly due to the last two wars, it will be found that there has been a great increase. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council quoted Gladstone and 1886, when Statutory Rules and Regulations had not begun to be published. In 1889 they had begun to be published, and it is interesting to compare their volume. From 1901 to 1914 the annual output of Statutory Rules was something in the neighbourhod of 1,000. In 1920–21 the number had more than doubled annually. It is argued that this is rather a convenience and that detailed matters of administration should be left to the experts; and that the House, in some mysterious way, is not competent to deal with them. I should like to challenge that view.

Royal Assent

12.16 p.m.

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.

The House went; and, having returned

Mr. Speaker reported the Royal Assent to:

1. Local Elections (Service Abroad) Act, 1945.

Procedure

Question again proposed,

"That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Procedure in the Public Business of this House and to report what alterations, if any, are desirable for the more efficient despatch of such business."

12.25 pm.

The development of legislation by Statutory Rules and Orders really makes it necessary that this Select Committee should be appointed and this inquiry held. The position with regard to Statutory Orders has become such that it is impossible under modern legislation for the ordinary civilian to know what his duties are, or even what degree of penalties he may be subject to. Sir William Graham Harrison, giving evidence before, an earlier Select Committee, said he knew of two cases—one, where a Statutory Order consisted of nothing more than an interchange of Interdepartmental letters. How the citizen is to know what those letters contain, and what are the duties imposed upon him, I do not know. For Parliament to allow that state of affairs in legislation to obtain is to abrogate its duty to the country. Another instance was given in which the appropriate official in a Department made a Statutory Order, placed it in a pigeon-hole, and forgot all about it for two years. Although the Order was technically and legally in force, not even the author of the Order itself remembered it. [Laughter.] That appears to be regarded as a laughing matter, but the legal position is that a citizen is liable for prosecution under this Order, although the author of it did not remember it, and no one else in the country, other than the author, knew of its existence. It is sometimes argued that in the case of matters of detail, it is best to leave these matters to the Department, and to embody these details in Statutory Rules and Orders. If the wealth of experience in a Department was greater than the knowledge and experience of Members, that argument might hold good; but let us examine one Order as a specimen, passed as recently as 1943, to show how expert are these Orders, and how these matters of detail are dealt with by Statutory Rules. This Order—No. 1216 of 1943—deals with the control of tins and cans.

If hon. Members know it I am not going to weary the House by reading it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] It is a specimen of legislation as it is now carried out and it is a reason why a Select Committee should inquire into this method of legislation. It reads:

"The Control of Tins, Cans, Kegs, Drums and Packaging Pails No. 5 Order 1942 (a) as varied by the Control of Tins, Cans, Kegs, Drums and Packaging Pails No. 6 Order 1942(b) the Control of Tins, Cans, Kegs, Drums and Packaging Pails No. 7 Order 1942(c) the Control of Tins, Cans, Kegs, Drums and Packaging Pails No. 8 Order 1942 (d) and the Control of Tins, Cans, Kegs, Drums and Packaging Pails No. 9 Order 1942 (e) is hereby further varied in the Third Schedule thereto by substituting for the reference 2.A therein the reference 2 A (1) and by deleting there from the reference 2B…."
I shall not weary the House by reading the Order any further. All it means to say is that tins can now be used for tobacco boxes and snuff boxes. When legislation gets into that state, it surely is a reason why a Select Committee should be appointed and devise some other means of making the legislation of this House intelligible not only to Members but to citizens generally. It is not so easily dealt with by regarding one set of facts as details and another set as principles. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this House should be a great forum of Debate. That is its first function. It is not a right which the Private Member, or any other Member of this House, should hand over to the Executive or anyone else.

Bagehot said, among many of his true observations, that good talk was better than bad talk, but that bad talk was better than no talk at all. That may be a plea of justification for many of us, but bad talk is better than no talk at all. It is sometimes said as a reproach to this House that it does nothing but talk, but a House that talks, is a free House in a free country. It is the one mark of a free country. The complaint that people are no longer interested in the prestige of the House was made by the right hon. Gentleman before the Select Committee. The complaint was made by the late Lord Lloyd-George, before the Committee, that the House had lost its prestige in this century. It has lost its prestige as the power of the Executive has grown. But if Members of this House are free to express their free opinion, free judgment, upon these great issues that concern the welfare of the country and the welfare of the electorate, the prestige of the House will soon be regained, as will the authority of the House with regard to matters of detail. I agree that there is nothing sacrosanct about procedure, about how to deal with a Parliamentary Act, but there is something sacrosanct about the House having authority, a free assembly in a free world.

12.32 p.m.

May I first apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for having had to go out in the middle of his speech? I received a summons which had to be obeyed. I am not surprised to hear that in my absence he indicated that he was not wholly in favour of my Amendment, which proposes to add:

"and thereafter do make suggestions for the provision and conduct of Private Members' time."
I am well accustomed to putting down reasonable, helpful and warm-hearted Amendments only to be spurned by ungrateful Ministers. I believe that in not many words I may make the right hon. Gentleman change his mind because this Amendment will be helpful to him and to the Select Committee. If he and the House will look at the instruction at the end of this Motion they will see that the Committee are to be instructed to report as soon as possible on any scheme for the acceleration of business on Public Bills. May I emphasise that Public Bills include Private Members' Bills? That means to say that this instruction is that the Committee shall as soon as possible consider the acceleration of proceedings on Private Members' Bills. The new lightning legislation scheme, whatever it is, is to apply to Private Members' Bills as well as to Government Bills, and I was delighted to read it. Instead of lumbering along like doodle-bugs, attacked from every quarter, they will whiz through like a rocket as the Government Bills are to do. Nothing could be more satisfactory.

It is perfectly true that there are a great many cumbersome and antiquated obstacles in the path of Private Members' Bills—I am not thinking of the right hon. Gentleman. Take the case of a Private Member introducing a Bill to bring about one of the numerous law reforms which have been so long delayed—I am delighted to see two Law Officers present—or brings in a Bill to abolish the decree nisi or, a very good example, to promote Sunday theatres, a subject which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman and his Government will tackle again. The Private Member to his astonishment and indignation will find that other hon. Members have an old-fashioned but deep-seated conviction that they have the right to talk about his proposals, to oppose them, argue about them, and what is even more exasperating, make long-winded speeches in their favour: to talk them out, and if the view is that of the majority, throw them out, or if they are a minority, to attempt to improve on our glorious ideas. The whole thing is very tiresome indeed. The great law-giver, Moses, had no such trouble. He announced the law; there were smoke and thunder, and the people went away. That is what in my heart of hearts I believe the right hon. Gentleman wants—and so do I. It would be a very great improvement indeed if all that happened was that we should come to that Table, and announce in general terms what we want to do, and the Members should say, "Jolly good show," and that we should all go home. But our cumbrous ancient procedure will not allow that.

There is such a thing as the ballot. I have been a Member of this House for 10 years and have taken part in the ballot on every occasion, but I have never drawn a horse. Perhaps the Select Committee could do something about that. Perhaps they will suggest some other simple device: it might be that University Members' Bills should be taken first—or, more seriously, that you, Mr. Speaker, should select the most important. There are other cumbrous and antiquated things. New Members and the many new Members on the Committee will find that there are such things as a Second Reading, the Committee stage, the Report stage and Third Reading, all with their different rules and regulations, very tiresome indeed to my right hon. Friend and me when we come forward with our excellent ideas. I am delighted that Private Members' Bills are to be, included in the subjects for urgent consideration by the Select Committee. But it is a little dangerous. Consider the example of the Private Member who might wish to introduce a Bill for prohibition. This is an example I always give when I lecture to the sailors about Parliament. They always ask a question about the "cumbrous old procedure." I say, "All very well, but supposing someone, say your old friend Nancy Astor, introduced a Bill for prohibition? You would be very glad that there were a few hurdles and opportunities for delay, and opportunities for preventing or holding back the passing of the Bill." There is a great deal to be said for these arrangements.

The practical point of my Amendment—this is where I begin to help the right hon. Gentleman—is that his instruction says that the Committee are to report "as soon as possible" on the proceedings of public Bills including, as I say, Private Members' Bills. My Amendment says, in slightly different words, "and thereafter discuss Private Members' time." "Thereafter" is the important word. This is a really serious practical point. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will sec what I mean. There are a great many complicated things which will arise if the Committee are to discuss "as soon as possible" the proceedings on Private Members' Bills. I for one should be quite prepared to consider reform of Private Members' time—I am not unreasonable—I should never think of asking for the whole lot at this time. It may well be that two days out of five at such a time is too much. It may be that there should be fewer Fridays or Wednesdays. There are things like the abuse of the Rules in Private Members' time, which I admit has happened. There has been a wasted day, not because Members were not eager but were perhaps too eager. Take the "counting-out" Rule. Hon. Members will remember that sometimes there were three Bills on the Paper every Friday. Someone who probably did not like Bill No. 2 or Bill No. 3 would count out Bill No.1. It is quite legitimate in a way: if a Bill does not command the attention of the House it is quite right that we should get rid of it in some way, but that action kills Bills Nos. 2 and 3 and the whole business of the day.

I hope the Select Committee will consider the whole question of the count and whether the quorum is not too small. We have more Members now. There are many occasions when it is quite justifiable for there to be less than 40 Members in the House. There is no duty upon us to listen to boring speeches on unimportant subjects. But when a count is demanded and some clever young man counts 30, and we see in the papers the headline "Only 30 Members present", it looks bad for this place. I suggest that especially on Fridays the quorum ought to go up to 65, 100, or something like that. To go back to the point, if the Committee are to discuss "as soon as possible" all Public Bills there will be much delay in getting on with what the right hon. Gentleman wants, the acceleration of Government Bills. I give him that. If he does not like my kind assistance, I can only say I am sorry.

But that is not the only reason I have put this Amendment down. I want to ask a question on which if I do not get some satisfaction I shall ask such friends as I have to vote in favour of it. I want to get a frank answer to the question: "What is the future of Private Members' time in this Parliament?"—not in this Session but in this Parliament. I ask the right hon. Gentleman straightly now: Does he hope, does he intend that there shall be Private Members' time ever again in this Parliament? He has only to nod his head and my speech will come to an abrupt conclusion. There is no nod. So now we know. Now, as the excited orator said, "The gloves are off and the cloven hoof is exposed." Now it is quite clear—I have suspected it in my heart of hearts for a long time—the totalitarian bug has got him and he means to be the Moses of this Parliament.

I do not want to make too heavy weather of it, but it is a saddening thing; and I think it will be a matter of some concern to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who have given a very generous and charitable welcome to the Motion, because if I cannot get that nod and those are the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman concerning Private Members' time, how much can we rely on any of the fine professions about democratic rights in other matters? I still recommend this Amendment on the practical ground that it will help the right hon. Gentleman, and if he accepts it on that ground he may get out of a hole. But I shall divide for my Amendment on the ground that it is evidently the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to take our time for the whole of this Parliament. Though it may be justifiable in this Session or the next I cannot accept that. And if that Division takes place, I am sorry indeed for the consciences of some of my hon. Friends on the other side of the House, when they go back to their homes and constituencies this week-end, and are: asked by their supporters "What was the first positive thing you did in the great Palace of Liberty?" and they have to answer, "Twice in a week I voted for the suppression of the individual and the domination of the gang."

12.45 p.m.

I think there will be a certain amount of disappointment in the country, if not also in this House, with regard to this Motion. I think anticipation had been raised that the Government, by means of this Motion, were really preparing the machinery for carrying through those changes for which the country has been looking. It was obvious that the Opposition were thinking that the right hon. Gentleman was now going to do some of the things that he had indicated in days gone by in the way of putting through legislation. Well, evidently we are to get only a sort of routine inquiry into the possibility of improving the procedure of the House in the conduct of public Business, with certain suggestions from the Government as to which, quite evidently, there was a certain amount of agreement on the part of Members of the Tory Party during the period of the Coalition Government. That is all we are getting. This House, besides being the forum of public debate, must be the instrument of passing legislation which is so urgently needed to improve the shocking standard of life of the people. In the times in which we live the House of Commons is perhaps more important as an instrument of legislation than as a forum of public debate. I am disappointed that the Government are not to put forward many proposals designed to give us an opportunity of passing through this House the great projects for social change which are so necessary.

In this connection I would draw the attention of the Government and of this Committee, when they get down to business, to the proposals of one who perhaps contributed more to this subject in our time than anyone else. I refer to the proposals of the late right hon. F. W. Jowett, who was a member of the first Labour Government in this country. He brought forward proposals for improving the procedure in public Business, his objective being to introduce into this House some of the procedure which is characteristic of the municipal life of this country, on the lines of the control by committees of this House of the adminis- tration of the various Departments for which Ministers are responsible. I hope that this Committee will take into serious consideration the late Mr. Jowett's proposals. From the various maiden speeches I realise that there is in this Parliament a great wealth of new talent, and from a long experience of this House I do not want to see that talent lost, I do not want to see so many Members deprived of opportunities of using their ability to improve things, and I hope the Committee will see that fuller opportunities are provided for ordinary Members to employ their gifts in improving administration as well as in promoting legislation.

The Leader of the Opposition referred, for example, to possibilities in this direction in connection with the Army. We have Debates in Supply upon the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and other Departments, and everybody must realise that those debates have often resulted in improvements in the Services. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition was that there should be a committee to deal with such matters, saying that while its work would not limit what is now done on ordinary Supply days it would serve to bring into relief, through preliminary discussions, various important matters in connection with particular Departments. That is in line with the general proposals, and in this connection I would draw attention to what was done during the last Parliament. The Committee on National Expenditure, with its various sub-committees, looked into the organisation of various Departments for carrying on the war and their expenditure, and every hon. Member knows that a very great deal of good was done and that a supervision was exercised over the Departments that was for the good of the country.

I would recommend to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council the possibility of such developments in regard to all the Departments. It is true, I feel, that the Minister responsible for a Department cannot become simply the chairman of a committee of this House appointed in connection with his Department, as is the case in local affairs; it would not be possible to work things in that way; but I think the object of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) would be very largely met if committees of this House were examining the work of all Depart- ments. That would produce great advantages in the conduct of the business of this country. I will conclude by saying that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be wooed away from what was in his mind with regard to carrying through great Socialistic plans by the bewitching words used by hon. Members who are sitting on my right here, and that some day soon we shall have an earnest of the great Socialistic programme which it is necessary to carry through if we are to provide houses and improve the standard of life of our people.

12.54 P.m.

I must confess that when I came into this Chamber this morning I was one of those, referred to by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), who believed that the words of the Motion conveyed something which I am now beginning to think it could not convey. I should like to say right away, and I know that I speak for my colleagues on this Bench, that I welcome the proposal to set up a Select Committee to look into the whole question of procedure. There is no organisation, committee or establishment whose procedure could not be improved if it were studied, and it must be certain that the procedure of this House, even though it has been evolved with such skill over so many years, can be improved by careful study. As I have said, I entered this Chamber this morning with the gravest apprehensions and I think it is worth while to explain why I felt those apprehensions. I have been a Member of this House only for about five years, and four of those years I had to spend out of the country; but I have been able to sit in this House since January of this year and to become acquainted to a certain extent with its procedure, and one thing which I have very definitely learned is that it takes more than five months to appreciate either the merits or demerits of the procedure. I make this explanation because in what I am going to say I may display an excess of ignorance of what has been the procedure in the past, but I do submit that with my five months' experience of work in the House I am at least in a better position than more than half the Members of this House who have never had any experience of it at all.

At least the procedure we have has great merits. I have seen it passing Bills which it was thought were unlikely to be passed. I have seen the procedure deliberately flouted—perhaps that is not quite the word—or put aside by common agreement in order to get Bills which for certain very good reasons were wanted before the Dissolution of Parliament. One result of that is that the Scottish Education Act is not nearly so good a Measure as if we had been able to debate it properly. A great deal could have been done to improve it, but the procedure of the House, which is apparently to come under review, was such that we could put that Bill through just when we needed it, and I do not quite understand all this fuss in regard to getting quicker action.

Let me refer again to the grave apprehensions I felt when I came in this morning. First, we welcome the appointment of this Select Committee, but when I read the last paragraph of the Motion—I must speak for myself but I think I can also speak for my colleagues—we found that the Committee was not to proceed to take evidence, to consult people, draw up a report and make recommendations which in due course would come before the House, but was to have a cut-and-dried scheme before it, a scheme from the Government. That was the whole implication, and one could not but feel that that scheme should have been put before this House in full session so that all of us could study it and hear the arguments for and against it. What will happen to this scheme now? We gather from the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) that he knows the rough outline of a plan that was discussed by Members of the Coalition Government, and that he does not consider it to be too bad—he has not fully committed himself—but a large number of us have no idea whatever of what is in that plan. We do not even know what Cabinet officers were members of the committee that prepared it, we do not know whether it represents a majority report or a minority report or whether there was any agreement on it at all. I submit that our task to-day would be much easier if we, too, had some knowledge of that scheme. Next, one obviously looks at the composition of the Committee.

I fancy that, possibly without meaning it, my hon. Friend may have misled the House. As far as I understand it, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition did not in fact imply approval of any scheme which had been drawn up during the time when he led the Administration. What he did say, I think, was that he had approved of, or given his blessing to, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House that the scheme which was then to be put before the Select Committee, did not go further than the scheme which had been drawn up as a result of representations from the Coalition.

I do not think that I put that construction on it. I must confess that the impression I gained from listening to the right hon. Gentleman was that, by and large, he considered, from his knowledge of it, that it was not as dangerous a thing as some of us feared it might be. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman did not commit himself. As to the composition of the Committee I find that, on a matter which affects the procedure of this whole House, and, therefore, affects every hon. Member of the House and every elector in the country, the Committee is to be composed of only 17 Members. I know that there is a great deal to be said for keeping Committees small, as they can function much better, but I should have thought that, on a matter of this importance, the Committee should be large enough to include every recognised shade of opinion in the House, and that it does not do.

Another thing which I noticed about it is that the Committee includes four new hon. Members of this House. I am not going to pass any comment on those hon. Members. I know that at least three of them have very high qualifications for any job, and they have done magnificent work in their own spheres. One has undoubtedly got some knowledge of this House, but two certainly have not. I can imagine even one hon. Member who is new to this House being an asset to the Committee, but I find it very difficult to swallow this very large number of new hon. Members on a committee on procedure. I would just say that I may have drawn some comfort from the fact that two Members of the Committee received their education at the same establishment as myself, but I began to think about it rather carefully and I suddenly realised that the President of the Board of Trade, whose views on this question of procedure as given some years ago are very pronounced——

Is the hon. Member suggesting that that is a disqualification?

Well, I am beginning to wonder. I remember a certain individual, formerly a Member of this House, who has been rather notorious in recent years—I refer to the Leader of the Blackshirts—who regrettably was also educated at this institution, and we do know what his views are on the form of Government of this country. I could get no comfort from that, and I am advertising this because those of us who feel strongly about the rights of Private Members have every reason to be suspicious of this proposal as it is laid before us to-day.

May I refer again to the fact that more than half this House has no experience of its actual work? We have means by which this House can put through good Bills quickly, and put the brake on bad Bills. I have had a few months' experience myself of this House working with a straightforward Government, and a straightforward Opposition, a thing which no new hon. Member has seen, and something which a great many hon. Members who have been here longer than I have, have never seen. I think we ought to know more about this matter. The matter is going before the Committee and the Committee will consider it. What happens then? The Committee makes a report. Is it the intention of the Government, when the House re-assembles, to arrange that that report should be put before us at once and a vote taken on it and the whole thing, to use an American expression, "railroaded through," or are we to get a reasonable period for consideration and seeing how the House works, with time to make up our minds whether the changes suggested are really valuable to the House?

1.6 p.m.

Like my hon. Friend who has just sat down, I came here to-day with very great apprehensions in regard to this Motion. The reason why I was so concerned was not because I deny the necessity of reconsidering the procedure of this House from time to time, but because I felt that the introduction of this Motion could only be read against the background, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) referred, of speeches delivered by leading Socialists who are now leading Members of H.M. Government, some of which might be interpreted as indicating contempt for Parliament as an institution, and some of which certainly appeared to desire to by-pass Parliament itself. If, however, it is the desire of the Government merely to obtain the smooth passage of complicated legislation, then, surely, it is a little curious that the Government should not make the customary approach through the usual channels to the Opposition in order to find out whether it will be possible to facilitate the passage of this legislation? I understand that that course has not on this occasion been followed, and one might have expected the tabling of such a Motion as this only after such customary negotiations had proved fruitless and sterile.

Those of us who were hon. Members of this House from 1931 onwards will remember the long controversies on the Government of India Bill, and will recollect some useful lessons from those days. There was profound disagreement on that Bill, and an agreement to disagree, and those of us who were opposed to the Bill reached an agreement with the Government of the day that a given number of days should be allotted to the discussion on the Committee stage. So successful was the agreement that, in fact, the Committee stage of that Bill, covering more than 400 Clauses, was completed with some little time to spare. The point to which I wish to draw attention, however, is that a certain number of hours or days were allotted to a block of Clauses, and, when the time was up, if a number of important Amendments or Clauses had not been reached or discussed, wide powers of discretion were left with the Chairman to allow further hours for discussion and to enable him to call such Amendments as were really important. It seemed to me that that system worked very well indeed, and the Government of the day certainly got the legislation they desired.

I think hon. Members will agree that it would be a pity if the Select Committee recommended anything which, in effect, curtailed discussions on Committee stage. I think hon. Members will agree that few days have been wasted on the Committee stage of any major Bill during the last few years, because nothing is more valuable than the constructive criticism which is then expressed. What is the dominating fact of the situation which faces us this morning? It is that the Government wish to speed up legislation, but it seems to me that we should be careful not to curtail discussion, or limit that close analysis of legislation, which it is the business and duty of this House to undertake. I feel some concern because this new House will have to consider the report of the Select Committee—with its large Government majority. I feel concern because this is a new House, with a majority of new Members who are inexperienced in its Procedure, and who, only last week, cheerfully voted away Private Members' time without any real knowledge of the opportunities and privileges of which they stripped themselves.

The reason why I am so anxious that Debate on legislation should not be curtailed in any way is that, so far as we understand the policy of the Government, we are now going to see the maintenance and extension of a great many controls in this country. Law is a very blunt instrument, and it is very difficult so to formulate and shape it, even on the Committee stage in this House, so that injustices are not committed—injustices affecting minorities and individuals. The value of the Committee stage surely is that many hon. Members, belonging to different parties and of a very different turn of mind, concentrate their minds upon removing hardships and injustices and potential injustices, and I hope we shall never do what was proposed by the Lord President of the Council in his speech at Bradford on 5th March, 1944—to leave the details to the Executive—because it is precisely the details which affect the lives of the ordinary man and woman of the country. We all know that the Civil Service is conscientious and hard working, but it cannot get the same daily contact with the people of this country which hon. Members of this House have got, and it cannot, therefore, be aware what the people of this country will willingly accept and what they will bitterly resent.

We had an example of that in the last Parliament over the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill. It was plain that that Bill as drafted contained many things abhorrent to large numbers of people. Representations were made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Amendments were moved on the Floor of the House, and, on the whole, many satisfactory compromises were reached. I hope, therefore, that this House will never deprive itself of the opportunity of adequate discussion of legislation on the Committee stage of any Bill or leave our people at the mercy of the machinations of anonymous permanent officials, who, though they do their very best to frame and administer the law, must nevertheless abide by the regulations and rules which are laid down and cannot make allowances for those individual cases of hardship with which we are all so familiar. That is why apparent discourtesy and lack of consideration are an inherent part of any system of bureaucratic control, and that is why to-day I am asking that the legislation of this Government shall be fully debated on the Floor of this House. If it were otherwise, the hardship and injustices may prove to be innumerable, and those injustices will bring bitterness and discontent.

The first paragraph of the Motion which we are now discussing says:
"That a Select Committee be appointed…to report what alterations, if any, are desirable for the more efficient despatch of such business."
The word "efficient" seems to me to require some elucidation. Some people think that "efficient" means producing the maximum production of something. We should do more harm than good if we were to approach procedural reform with any kind of assumption, conscious or unconscious, that whatever tends towards greater efficiency in that sense is a constitutional improvement. On the contrary, I believe that the quicker the passage of a Bill through this House the worse is its quality. The danger of doing more harm than good is emphasised in the final paragraph of the Motion which reads:
"They"—
that is the Select Committee—
"do report as soon as possible upon any scheme for the acceleration of proceedings on Public Bills which may be submitted to them on behalf of His Majesty's Government."
That sentence does seem to make the assumption that the acceleration of legislative output is not only a good thing in itself, but is the good thing to which other considerations may well be subordinated. I submit this fact, which it may well be in the interest of His Majesty's Government to consider, that innumerable authorities on statecraft and political philosophers of many nationalities have long reached the conclusion that the fewer laws a Government passes the better is that Government. That view was shared by Plato and by many eminent humanists such as Saint Thomas More, one of the greatest of Englishmen, Erasmus, Vives, that great Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon, that great Dutch thinker Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, Winstanley, James Harrington, and that American idealist, Bellamy, and many more. Now we are assured by the Lord President of the Council in his speech this morning that so great is the bulk of Government Business that we must speed up the passage of legislation in this House. Therefore, we can only conclude that this is a very bad Government indeed.

What is the main consideration before us? Surely it is this question: What authorises a Government to insist upon an unusual degree of control of the time of this House and unusual or new and innovatory procedure? Surely the answer is that if a Government is faced by a cataclysm of nature, or the threat of war, or the danger of invasion as in 1940, that Government, faced by the necessity of getting its legislation through fast, is entitled to ask the House to pass almost anything which may be useful, and the House is practically bound to pass everything that the Government asks. But there is a different set of considerations when the need for speed of output is a need created by the Government itself, and that is the situation which we face to-day. The legislative programme of His Majesty's Government is not designed to meet the immediate needs of our people. That was made clear over and over again during the Debate on the Address when we were told, for example, that the nationalisation of the coalmines would not improve or increase the output of coal this winter.

If the legislative programme of His Majesty's Government were designed to deal with the immediate needs of the people, if the proposals would result in more food in the larders of our housewives next spring as compared with last spring, if the proposals meant more clothes for the people next spring than last spring and if they meant establishing new industries this autumn and modernising old industries, then, at the cost of some bad legislation, it would be worth the price because of the immediate good which we would obtain. Then efficiency of despatch and acceleration of proceedings might properly be the governing considerations. But to-day, when the object of His Majesty's Government is not to meet the immediate needs of our people but when it is concerned with the long-term reconstruction of society, it seems to me incontestible that what is wanted is not so much speed, as a prudent weighing of alternatives.

This raises a question which is important. Is the social and economic revolution upon which we are about to embark reversible or not? If it is irrevocable then, first, there is perhaps no very great urgency about it. Secondly, if it is irrevocable, surely that should be made plain. If it is intended that we should continue with Parliamentary government as we have known it in the past, and if His Majesty's Opposition are to have the chance of elaborating policies in opposition to His Majesty's Government and in the end to replace His Majesty's Government with the object of carrying out those policies which they enunciated while in opposition, surely it is of the utmost importance, when great legislative programmes are on hand which not: only deal with the immediate needs of the people, but, as to-day, are designed to alter the whole make-up of our daily lives and livelihood, that we should be given an assurance that we shall have the most complete opportunities for debate and thoroughness of debate, and time, above all time, for the Opposition to get its objections to the legislation proposed by His Majesty's Government into the public consciousness. Only two days ago the Prime Minister, speaking on the United Nations Charter, said a very significant thing in this connection. Speaking about the functions of the General Assembly and the suggestion of the small Powers that too much stress has been laid on the Security Council and not enough on the Assembly, the Prime Minister said:
"It is very easy to under-estimate the value of public opinion and of open discussion which lead public opinion. No Member of the House of Commons should make that mistake …I am certain that the discussions in the Assembly…can be of immense value in focussing public opinion on the great issues that arise between nations."—[Official Report. 22nd August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 664.]
That is what the Prime Minister said two days ago. I suggest we follow his advice.

1.23 p.m.

I think the Government may consider themselves extraordinarily fortunate in that the Opposition have been so very kind and considerate to them to-day—much too kind and considerate in my judgment. I, like the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Maclay), came here with considerable apprehension with regard to the motives behind the Government in this comparatively outwardly harmless proposition. None of us would suggest that a Committee should not be set up. We are all agreed that where it is possible to improve anything it is as well to have a means of considering it, but in my judgment we have been much too readily disarmed on this side of the House by the fact that my right hon. Friend has said that these proposals which the Committee is instructed to consider are the identical proposals which have already been considered by a sub-committee or a committee of a previous Government.

Those proposals have been seen by Members on this side of the House who were part of that Government, and one gathers are not of an alarming character, but the point which has been worrying me all along is whether this Committee is to consider only those proposals. They may consider all other ideas as well. They may have ideas of their own, or ideas may be put into their heads, by individual members of the Government. What guarantee have we that much influence will not be brought to bear from their friends behind the scenes? I am not one of those who believe that an Ethiopian can change his skin, or a leopard his spots, and I am not able to forget as readily as some, the amazing views which have been expressed by certain influential Members on the other side of the House. Are we to assume that those powerful Members have completely changed their views, that they have been converted to orthodoxy and commonsense, or, on the other hand, should we not more readily believe, unless we are too gullible, that that influence is still there, that those views are still held and that Members on this side of the House are being lulled into an unsuspicious mood with regard to the motives and objectives of the Government? It is upon that theme that I would ask the House to listen to me.

It is not the carefully worded Resolution so much as what this Committee will do when it starts to function and the kind of conclusions to which it may come that we naturally and inevitably have to turn our minds, and about which I am deeply concerned. What is the motive and the underlying objective? The word "efficient" is used. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Squadron Leader Donner) referred to it. What is efficiency? Is it industrial efficiency or mass production? Is Parliament to be a sort of mass producer of legislation, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, like turning out sausages? If that is the motive—and one fears it may be—what is the excuse in the minds of the Government? We know from the Gracious Speech that a mass of legislation is intended. An enormous number of promises were made by the Party opposite in the General Election, and therefore an attempt must be made to implement them. Therefore, mass production of legislation may well be one of the underlying motives of the Government in setting up this Committee—to make the road easy for mass production of legislation, to churn out ill-digested legislation contrary to the traditions of this House, with evil effects of a lamentable character upon our laws and the respect of the people of this country for this House of Commons.

There is another word used later on. The object is stated to be to accelerate proceedings. Why should proceedings be accelerated unnecessarily? Our Parliamentary traditions have safeguarded our legislation. If I could believe that the motives behind the setting up of this Committee were really as harmless as we have been led to believe, I would not have reason to speak at all, but I remain sceptical. I will not be lulled from my apprehension. I have a feeling that in the setting up of this Committee there are other motives besides those about which we have been told, and, with respect to the individuals concerned, I am not impressed with some of the names of those who represent the Government point of view. I fear that when they get down to business and begin to air not only their own views on the many subjects which they will have to discuss, but also the views which other people may put into their minds, the result may be thoroughly unsatisfactory to this side of the House.

This much I will say, that at least we shall be able to watch the proceedings of this Committee in a manner which I did not expect when I came here this morning, and to that extent there is some satisfaction. After all, the Government can exercise their will, with their enormous majority. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said that he was not going to give instructions—if I remember aright—to drive the Committee. Maybe not, but the Government majority will drive its way along. The sledge hammer of the Government majority will carry its will. This Committee is intended to be a mere ways and means of carrying out the will of the majority. In due course, the minority opinion will be overridden. I feel that the remarks which have been made so far may have lulled the suspicions of many Members of this House and on this side of the House, but they have not lulled mine. I hope, indeed I hope, that this Committee will not do as I fear it will, introduce far-reaching amendments in our old traditional Parliamentary procedure which will then legislate half-baked laws and be detrimental to the ultimate interests of this country.

The other evening, I made an intervention in the Debate and I was called to Order. I was very properly called to Order. I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that, with your indulgence, those remarks will not count as a maiden speech.

I think it proper that a new Member should speak on this subject. No new Member has spoken on it yet, and it surprises me that Members returned to this House should be so diffident about such an important matter. I have come as a new Member and what has struck me here has been the enormous time given to the discussion of a scientific invention, and the comparatively little time which is being devoted to this most important matter.

The significant experience I have had in this House is confined to the decision to take away Members' rights. The first Debate that I heard was concerned with the removal of what I feel it is my duty to undertake, the representation of my constituents. That was removed in the very early stages of the House when Private Members' time was confiscated in its entirety by His Majesty's Government. I did not warn them of the consequences of that. They will not find much difficulty on this side because of our numbers. They will find more difficulty in restraining those legions opposite, whose verbosity and eloquence deluged the platforms of the Labour Party and who will not be so easily swamped by the device of abolishing Private Members' time, and by the proposal which is now before us.

I speak now because I feel that if I do not speak now, I shall be for ever silent. The prospects of speaking in the future will be few and far between, especially for hon. Members on the other side. I do not understand how an ancient body of this description can have this passion for change. We have hardly arrived here, some of us have not yet found our seats, before proposals are submitted to us to alter machinery that is quite capable of carrying out the business of this House. At this time, this Chamber, by the public acclaim of the world, stands as the most desirable, useful and worth while institution of its kind in human knowledge and human interest, but the first Parliament to meet after it has reached that stage, decides—to do what? Change the machinery by which it has stood the test of time and the test of a great war. Is that a wise, proper and desirable proposal? This machinery which is supposed to be deserving of close examination and criticism was the machinery which carried this country through a great conflict of a unique character, and carried it through, let us remember, to victory. Are we to assume that that machinery which was so successful in time of war is inadequate for the comparatively, relatively, trivial proposals of His Majesty's Government? Are we to suppose that machinery which was capable of launching armies, navies and air forces to victory, is incapable of carrying through these proposals for the nationalisation of the means and instruments of production and exchange?

Mr. Gladstone has been quoted. There have been other Prime Ministers whose sayings and achievements linger in the memories of some of us. One of the great Prime Ministers of this country was Lord Melbourne. He was Queen Victoria's Prime Minister and he was a successful Prime Minister. There was a great deal of peace and happiness, pleasure and human enjoyment in the days of Queen Victoria—[An Hon. Member: "And starvation wages."] I look back with a certain nostalgia to the days of the starvation wages, compared with the proposals of the present Minister of Food. Lord Melbourne was a practical politician. It is reported that he met his Cabinet four times a year. On one occasion he met them at a quarter to twelve o'clock and said that he was to have a glass of sherry at twelve and consequently would not retain them very long with the agenda. He said on another occasion: "Must we really do anything?" While I do not agree with such an extreme policy of inaction I shall not be surprised if we are converted to a policy of inaction before this Parliament comes to an end. Why this passion to do things? [An Hon. Member: "We are sent here to do things."] The great world moves on irrespective of the gyrations and eloquence of people in this House.

This machine has worked very well, but if there is an inadequate opportunity for us to discuss public affairs, I fail to understand the Resolution which we passed yesterday. On previous occasions, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House have protested against the Summer Adjournment and the Summer Recess. Before entering this House, I followed the Debates in this Chamber, and I think I am right in saying that the present Minister of Health and the present Minister of Fuel and Power—who, as a fellow Scotsman, I would like to congratulate, as I see him in his place—one year ago protested to His Majesty's Government about the Adjournment for the Summer Recess, and moved a Motion that it be limited to three weeks, and not six weeks as proposed. I hoped yesterday to hear some protest from this House on this taking first of all of Private Members' time, and then continuing what had been protested against in the previous Parliament, a too long Recess. But none was raised. Hon. Members opposite, having, with some surprise, been returned to this House, apparently are now anxious to enjoy, not the responsibilities to which they were called, but a somewhat prolonged holiday.

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for an hon. Member to make those references on the Motion which is now before the House?

The hon. Member is making what is regarded as his maiden speech, and in that case he is entitled to the courtesy, which is usual on such occasions, of not being interrupted.

I thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for that indulgence and I apologise to my hon. Friend if I have said something to which he could rightly take exception, but I am entitled to recall what was said by the right hon. Gentleman, who is now Minister of Health, and the right hon. Gentleman, now Minister of Fuel and Power. I recommend hon. Members to read those two moving speeches which were then directed to the attention of the House, because of the following reasons. Mark that these reasons have not changed. I think I am right in saying that it was the Minister of Fuel and Power who on that occasion said—and I am not quoting the exact words but the substance of them—"We are going to adjourn the House for a holiday. Are there no important questions which this House should consider? I will tell you two matters"—he said to the Prime Minister of the day—"which this House must discuss urgently and immediately and which the world and the country wait to hear discussed. One of those is housing"—said the right hon. Gentleman, speaking not then from the Treasury Bench and not then with his expectations and ambitions realised as they are to-day, but as a private and somewhat rebellious Member—"and we should not adjourn, because it calls for the urgent and immediate attention of His Majesty's Government." That is what he said a year ago and I think he was right in saying that the problem was urgent. It is urgent still.

What is the reply of His Majesty's Government to that? The arguments so convincing of those two right hon. Gentlemen a year ago, are dismissed as unimportant now and they have a mute, but I hope not inglorious, majority behind them. They can say to hon. Gentlemen who support them: "What was cogent, relevant and immediate last year is unimportant now." Housing is no longer important, if we are to believe the decision of His Majesty's Government, and monetary policy is no longer important. The other important matters of a year ago are no longer important. If Private Members' time is to be taken away, should it be taken away without a number of protests? It is my good fortune to make a protest to-day. It was the good fortune of the right hon. Gentleman who is on the Treasury Bench to make a protest last year in this House. I hope that Private Members will protest against this type of machinery, the deliberate object of which is to suppress the free expression of public opinion. If we are not sent here for the free expression of public opinion, we are of no use whatever.

I will conclude that if this Committee has as its object—as doubtless it will have its instructions—the curtailment of the rights of Members of this House, the consequence will be plain. A year or so from now these benches will be empty. The public will cease to have an interest in this Chamber and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will have served their purpose because a stage will have been achieved—not a stage created and designed as the creature of the imagination of reactionary Tories—but of the totalitarian State, to which Socialism as well as National Socialism has inevitably moved.

1.42 p.m.

Anyone who heard the vigorous and eloquent speech of the hon. Member, whom I congratulate on his maiden speech, will realise that we certainly have in this House obtained a recruit who will maintain the reputation of Parliament for vigour and controversy in Debate. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of this House, those upon whose side he fights, and those against whom he directs his darts, will look forward to the next and subsequent occasions when he addresses the House. I rather anticipate that on future occasions, when he is not making a maiden speech, his remarks will be subjected to a greater degree of interruption than he has met on this occasion from hon. Members opposite, who showed a most admirable restraint and patience.

I do not find myself wholly in agreement with all the arguments which were put forward by my hon. Friend. He spoke with admiration of the early nineteenth century. I happen to have in my hand a quotation from the eighteenth century, which perhaps expresses felicitously the opinion that he holds of the House of Commons and its procedure. Blackstone said:
"Of our constitution, so wisely contrived, so strongly raised and so highly finished, it is hard to speak with that praise which is justly and severely its due. The thorough and attentive contemplation of it will furnish its best panegyric."
Indeed, a Conservatism which is not even prepared to agree to a Select Committee to consider our procedure now, is rather more in line with the Conservatism of the eighteenth century, than that with which I and some of my hon. Friends here are associated. It was not the view of the Leader of the Opposition. It could not have been so, for 14 years ago he gave evidence before a Select Committee upon the procedure of this House and he did then make just those vigorous and original proposals for reforming the procedure at that time, which one would always expect from his fertile and imaginative mind.

As there has been no comprehensive reform of the procedure of this House since it was undertaken by Mr. Balfour in 1902, it would be remarkable if it were not in need of modernisation and adjustment. Since that time, the State has greatly increased the scope of its activities. That is proved by the large number of new Government Departments. In 1902, there were no old age pensions, no National Health Insurance, no insurance against unemployment, no Ministry of Town and Country Planning and no agricultural marketing. The State did not concern itself in the social and economic matters that touch so many aspects of our daily life. Because of that the amount of work that this House and individual Members have to do has been immensely increased. It is no wish of mine that the power of the Executive should be greatly increased at the expense of the House; on the contrary. I am sure that Parliament will not effectively maintain its control of the Executive if it has not the machinery which enables it to scrutinise and study what the Executive is doing. It is not the best way of getting a mill to do a great deal of work to charge it with twice as much grist as it was designed to grind.

During these years, Members of all parties have on many occasions expressed the view that it was necessary and desirable that our Parliamentary procedure should be revised. My Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) raised this matter in the last Parliament, and already Members were considering that reforms of various kinds would be needed. I hope the Select Committee will receive a large amount of evidence and suggestions from Members of all parties. At one time, I viewed the Lord President of the Council with something of the same suspicion that was expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Major G. Lloyd). I was in some degree mollified last year when I moved a Resolution asking for the setting up of a Select Committee to scrutinise all delegated legislation, and for the rest of that Parliament there was such a Select Committee up stairs on which several hon. Gentlemen who are now in the Government served. I think there was general agreement that the House of Commons was in that way able to exercise general supervision and scrutiny over delegated legislation, which was far more effective than when 615 Members were supposed to be responsible for scrutinising every Statutory Rule and Order laid on the Table. What is every man's business is no man's business, and I suggest that the Select Committee would be wise in trying to give hon. Members on the back Benches a certain degree of specialisation in this matter.

One of the reasons why Ministers are so often able to get away with it is that they themselves concentrate entirely upon their own Departments and the subjects with which they are concerned. In addition, they are helped and advised by civil servants who are experts. They are, therefore, at an immense advantage in facing criticism from back Benchers who are expected to devote their attention to all the different Departments of State and criticise and scrutinise the work of all the Ministers. I hope, therefore, that the general view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition will be accepted, namely, that to a great extent the House will concern itself with mere matters of policy and that the carrying out of the detailed examination of the proposals for delegated legislation will be entrusted to committees of the House who will scrutinise it upstairs. I noted that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. H. Morris) took the view that almost every matter of importance should be dealt with by the House itself. I suggest that, provided the House in the first place lays down the general principles and then appoints some of its own Members to scrutinise the carrying out of the policy, that is by far the best way of obtaining the results that we desire. That is an effective way of maintaining the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive and over legislation.

I was associated with the hon. Burgess the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) in asking that the Select Committee should consider the question of Private Members' Bills. I shall not be able to divide with him if he decides to divide the House, because I am satisfied that it is already within the competence of the Select Committee to deal with that matter. I trust that they will. I am glad to see that the Leader of the House is once more in his place, because I would like to repeat what I said about Private Members' time earlier this week. He will remember that during the war there were many occasions when back benchers on both sides desired to raise certain matters which were of general interest in the country. Through the appropriate channels on a large number of occasions, the Government provided opportunity for these matters to be raised which would ordinarily not have come up in the course of Government business. The right hon. Gentleman has warned us that the Government will be keeping us very busy with legislation. Therefore, the position will be very different from the war years, when all the time of the House was taken by the Government and when there were a large number of occasions when the Government, as a matter of concession and courtesy, allowed Private Members to raise certain issues. I hope we may have some assurance that the Government will, as far as possible, try to maintain the system which worked well during the war in order that matters of that kind may be raised.

I then said, and I repeat, that I do not want to see a return to the pre-war system under which Wednesdays and Fridays were allotted to Private Members' Motions and Bills, which all turned on the chance of the Ballot. Those were days when a large number of Members made a point of not attending the House. They were days when the most curious Bills used to be introduced as the result of the chance of the Ballot. Everybody put their names down and some drew lucky numbers out of a bag. A large proportion of those who drew lucky numbers did not know what to do with them, and they went to the Whips' Office and: asked for Bills to introduce. Other hon. Members knew only too well; they were anxious to prohibit vaccination or vivisection, or to discourage drink, or to encourage betting. The Bills introduced were usually the work of the cranks. Others proposed radical changes in the established law of the land, a great many dealing with workmen's compensation and so on. There was an attempt on one occasion to nationalise the Bank of England. Even when the Government were in sympathy with the objects of a Bill, the Government spokesman on almost every occasion said that he could not advise the House to pass the Bill. When the Government advises the House not to pass a Bill, that is a courteous euphemism for saying that the Bill will have its throat cut. The methods used were always effective, but they did nothing to raise the credit or prestige of the House of Commons.

I have heard a great deal of criticism in the country about the amount of obstruction that is supposed to go on in the House. In the 14 years, off and on, that I have been in the House, I have not seen any great amount of obstruction of Government Business. I have seen a tremendous amount of obstruction of Private Members' Bills, and that is what did a great deal to lower the general esteem in which the House of Commons was held. There was usually a scanty House, consisting of a few people who were interested, possibly cranks, and the Government Whips and other people frequently used to arrange for the House to be counted out. I desire to see the return of opportunities for Private Members to raise matters, and it is important that something on these lines should be done, but I hope and trust that there will be no return to the unsatisfactory pre-war system. I hope that the Select Committee will find time to give attention to this matter.

I welcome the appointment of the Committee, for Members in all parts of the House have frequently pointed out the necessity of the House keeping its procedure in line with modern developments, but we stand to lose nothing by having a Select Committee and an inquiry into our procedure. On the contrary, I think it will do a great deal to raise the prestige of the House in the country. I associate myself with what has been said by hon. Members on these Benches that the Select Committee will not produce, I hope, proposals such as those that have been produced in the past in books by right hon. Gentlemen who are now Members of the Government, who, when they were writing those books, had not positions of such responsibility.

1.58 p.m.

I think that, in general, it is undesirable when the question of the appointment of a Select Committee is under discussion, for the suggested Members of the Committee to take part in the Debate. I cannot, however, refrain from rising in order to express to the Home Secretary the intense gratitude and gratification which I feel at the tribute which he paid to my speech and for the manner in which, apparently, the Government's policy in this respect is founded upon a speech which I made. I was not always successful in the old Parliament in making the then Government, under the Leadership of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, listen to the views I put forward. It is, therefore, with pleasure that I realise that the Government have accepted the suggestions I made in that speech. I am not by nature a modest man, and I may, therefore, say that the tribute which the right hon. Gentleman paid to the eloquence of my speech was very well founded. I am really most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I am bound to confess that when I first saw the Motion on the Paper, I did not recognise the little darling which was supposed to be my baby in the clothes in which it was dressed up. It seemed to me to be of a slightly red hue. Perhaps I was rather colour blind, and in fact for a moment I wondered whether it had been artificially inseminated, and was not really my baby at all, but after hearing the right hon. Gentleman's speech I think I can say that it is sufficiently blue, and I am reassured that my powers of political procreation remain unimpaired.

I only wish to say two other and more serious things in connection with this matter, and they are these. In the first place, I would say, on behalf of all my potential colleagues on the Committee, that we have listened with the greatest respect, as was our duty, to all the suggestions that have been put forward. I am sure that all Members of the House will agree that a Select Committee must have complete freedom to consider all the proposals that have been made, and the mere fact that a Member in Debate has put forward certain views is not, in itself a reason for a Select Committee to accept them. It is necessary to say that in advance because, otherwise, some hon. Member may ask why the Committee did not accept the suggestion made by the hon. Member for A or the hon. Member for B. A Select Committee must be, and, indeed, always is, a wholly impartial body, so far as a group of persons with strong political views can be impartial. They consider each proposal upon its merits and will include, of course, the one put forward by my hon. Friend the Junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert).

My other point is this. I entirely assent to what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said about the Committee's terms of reference. I do not wish to stress the point, but so far as I know, it is rather unusual for the words "as soon as possible" to appear in the conditions laid down for a Select Committee. I am sure the Lord President would be the first to admit that that is only an indication of the wishes and intentions of the House. In fact, there is no way of making a Select Committee report more quickly than it desires, for the simple reason that there is no closure on its debates. There is no means by which its debates can be curtailed and members of a Select Committee, being after all human beings, will be more likely to report as soon as it is possible for them to do so if they are not told too clearly that it is their duty to report at the earliest possible moment. Nobody can possibly decide what constitutes the earliest possible moment.

So far as I can see, there is practically no limit to the terms of reference of this Committee. We can take everything into consideration; there is not a single rule of procedure going back 100 years that we cannot consider. So, we must have time to produce our final report, if it is to be the great work of reformation of the procedure of this House it is in tended to be. Therefore, I give this warning in advance, speaking only for myself since I am not entitled to speal for any of my colleagues; I do not in the least care what Members outside say, whether they are Tories or Socialists; I do not care for what the Press may say, nor for the bunkum we often get as a substitute for argument; I do not care what statements are made that there is a burning public desire for our report because we have a wonderful new world which the Socialist Party has a share in. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, and it corresponded with the arrival of the atomic bomb—all that sort of thing will not influence me as a member of the Committee in the slightest degree.

I conceive it to be the duty of those entrusted with the most important task of considering the procedure of this House, to give all due time and attention to the matter. It is not a matter that can be hurried; above all, it is not a matter that can be hurried in the interests of any one party, not even of His Majesty's Government. What matters is the interest of the House as a whole and, what is even more important, of the public outside. All the Members of the Committee must be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) who made a most notable speech in the course of this Debate. I for one can promise him that we shall take full account of the very important points he put forward.

2.6 p.m.

I crave the indulgence of this House as a new Member. I had not intended to speak in this Debate at all, but I happened to come in here just after lunch, and I found that I myself, along with many other new Members, was being accused, in a very provocative speech, of being lacking in courage and of seeking an opportunity to enjoy a holiday by coming here to Parliament. I would like to refer the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) to the last speaker, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), under whom I had the privilege of serving for 4½ years during the last war. I will stand by his declaration as to whether I, one of the new Members, am lacking in courage.

I stand here as a new Member to defend the rights of Private Members. Private Members have their rights, and we of the Labour Party have striven, since our birth, to defend the rights of the individual in all things. But our policy is, "First things first," and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has led us new Members into thinking rightly about the situation. With the time we have at our disposal, the matters we have to consider are so momentous and urgent that they do not give us the right as individual Members to waste time on private, petty individual matters. First things first, we say; the times are momentous, there is much to be done, and there is little time to lose. I feel that it is not worthy of an hon. Member to state that we are lacking in courage and are not ready to tackle this question of procedure.

The reason why we new Members have been silent is that we do not presume to know the procedure of this House. We have not been here before. But we shall quickly learn, and having learnt, we shall not presume to waste the time of the House in getting down to the work, so much of which has been left undone by those who are now sitting opposite. We new Members may be inexperienced—we admit we are—so far as the procedure of this House is concerned, but many of us have had long experience with local government, where we have seen sabotage because of old-fashioned ritual, and where we have seen things held up. I want to assure hon. Members that we are not here to throw a spanner into the machine. I am as much concerned about the heritage of this country as any man in it, and I am as much concerned about getting this nation back to where it should be—not where it used to be—as anyone else. The time has gone when we can be accused of lacking courage. Many hon. Members on this side of the House have displayed courage of a high order, many like myself have families of five or six children, who are showing and have shown courage of a very high order in the war. We will not stand for these accusations whether they come from new or old Members.

We follow here a democratic leadership. We are advised by the Leader of the House that it is in the best interests of the nation that Private Members' time shall be used, at least for the time being, to get first things done first. We abide by that decision. May I humbly claim to say that the leadership displayed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of this House is second to none in the world so far as constitutional procedure is concerned? I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), for whom I have quite a lot of sympathy, talking this morning about a sausage machine. It is not the amount of sausage that the machine turns out that matters, but how much of that sausage can be eaten by the public. We have had a lot of sausage turned out by the machine that used to operate in this House, which was very unpalatable. We are concerned that Private Members' time should be used for the benefit of our country and not abused.

I would refer some of the hon. Members opposite to the statements that have been made that we are no concerned with the prestige of our nation. Last year I had the great privilege of visiting America with a few British workmen, and we had the opportunity of discussing with the then President of the United States and his good wife, and with many other leaders, the question of prestige. I hope and trust that no Member of this House will accuse those of us who come from the ordinary day schools and who have had no diplomatic training whatever of having lowered the prestige of this country when we went to America. As a matter of fact I am led to believe from what has been said in the Press—not the "Daily Herald"—that we helped to place the prestige of Britain on a rather higher plane than some of our diplomatically trained people. I want to assure this House that we here stand for the heritage and rights of this great nation. But we do not stand for a waste of time. We want to get on with the job; God knows it is a grievous job, which requires the co-operation of the best brains of all parties and all peoples. It requires courage and demands from each one the best that is within him.

I did not like the reference to a waste of time. I come from an industry that is never mentioned on the Floor of this House—the great iron and steel industry. I left my employment a fortnight ago in a works where not one day has been wasted, and not one member of my union has been taken to task for absenteeism since the general strike of 1926. We here do not want holidays; we are prepared to put in all our time, every hour of the day if need be, to bring about the great social reforms so long overdue. I hope we shall not be accused of not being concerned with the honour, prestige and glory of this great nation. Those of us who have fought and bled for it, and whose children have done the same, claim the same privileges and rights as those who stand by and criticise, and say that we are unworthy of the positions we now hold. The voice of the people has spoken in no uncertain terms, and they demand from us, particularly from us new Members, that the old order shall be removed as quickly as possible. That will only be done by the fullest possible use of every available moment of time. There is no time to waste. The time has passed when two or three months could be wasted in Recesses. A bad example was set by the last Government and its predecessors in regard to the length of Recesses. We, on this side of the House, are willing to give the best that is within us to get for the people of this country the things they have sent us here to demand and obtain. In so doing we believe we shall keep the proud and honoured name of Britain at the highest possible point.

2.15 p.m.

It falls to me to congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. John Jones) on the most vigorous speech he has just made. I am sure we shall look forward to hearing him again in the near future and to hearing him make concrete suggestions for the rather ambitious programme which he has outlined when the Bills are eventually brought before the House.

I want to say a few words concerning the publication of the minutes of the evidence which is to be given before the Select Committee. It seems to me it is very important that Members should be able to read the minutes of the evidence before the report is discussed on the Floor of the House. I appreciate, of course, that the Government are most anxious to have the report ready by October and do not wish to agree to any suggestions which might in any way delay the publication of the report; but it is suggested in the Amendment on the Paper in my name that the minutes shall be printed from day to day, and if this were agreed to by the House there would be no congestion at the printers, and no unnecessary delay. To enable hon. Members to discuss in due course any recommendations which the Committee may put forward, it seems to me to be of vital importance that they should have the minutes before them. I feel sure the Government would not expect Members to accept any recommendations which may be laid before the House unless they knew what was the evidence that had led the Committee to come to its conclusions, and I hope the Government will agree to put as much information as possible in the hands of Members during the Recess. I think hon. Members will be anxious to know what is going on in the Committee and will look forward to reading reports of the evidence as and when they are circulated. The effect of the Amendment, if passed, would be that both the minutes of evidence and the report would be in the hands of Members before the Debate takes place. It seems to me to be a fair and equitable request to make to the Government, and I would like to thank the Leader of the House for his remarks regarding the Amendment and express the hope that the House will accept it.

2.18 p.m.

I would like to ask two questions to clear up in my own mind what the idea of the Government is. First, will the report of the Ministers in the last Parliament be published before the Committee sits on the instructions given by the House? I feel that if we are to follow intelligently the proceedings of the Committee, we should be entitled to receive the information which the Committee is to have in its possession. The second point I want to make is that when there is a Committee of 17 Members dealing with such important subjects, it is unfortunate that the quorum should be fixed at the low figure of five Members. When matters of such great importance to the House are to be discussed and recommendations made, it seems to me that the quorum should not be as low as five.

My hon. Friend the Junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) and his hon. Friends have now decided not to divide the House on their Amendment, but I feel that out of justice to the Junior Burgess and those who have supported his Amendment, I being one of them, it should be made clear that, although we are not dividing the House on this occasion, we shall at later dates have opportunities to try to influence the House to decide about the question of Private Members' time. I regret that when the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council was: asked to indicate whether he intended that the Government should take Private Members' time for the whole of this Session of Parliament and for the whole of the life of this Parliament, he gave neither assent nor dissent. I feel we should make this protest and say that we intend to fight for the rights of Private Members on the occasion of every new Session of the House. We shall try, as we have done in the past, to preserve the liberties of Private Members and to see that Private Members' time is restored.

2.21 p.m.

Before I turn to the subject of the Motion, I feel it would be only courteous to add my congratulations to those of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Finchley (Captain Crowder) on the passionately sincere and eloquent maiden speech of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. John Jones). It is, of course, the case that no one would suggest of any other hon. Member, whatever his party affiliations might be, either that he was lacking in courage or that he did not sincerely desire the honour and prestige of this country to be fully maintained. It would be a disastrous thing if there were any hon. Members who held views of that kind, although all of us must from time to time submit to the criticism that the particular policies we support are lacking in political courage and may not in fact conduce as much to the honour and dignity of the country as we ourselves suppose.

I must confess I have envied those who have so well addressed the House in maiden speeches during the past few days. For a relatively young Member who is not a maiden speaker to be suddenly catapulted from the maelstrom of an election, from which he has escaped rather like Noah, almost the only one of his kind, into a totally new Parliament, with a different political complexion, is some- thing of an ordeal in itself, and it is not rendered less frightening by the fact that he is neither entitled to ask for nor likely to receive the indulgence which is accorded to the inexperienced. The most I cam hope for is a kind of toleration accorded as an uncovenanted benefit.

I think the Government have no cause whatever to complain of the reception which their Motion has received. In the main it has been received, if not with acclamation in all quarters, at any rate with generosity and in some respects even with cordiality. Indeed, in some ways I could not help wondering whether, if they had known it was going to be so enthusiastically received, they would have ever put it forward, because after all, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) observed, the best way of saving time in this House and the very best way of expediting business is on the whole not to ride roughshod over the opinions and feelings of your opponents, however much you may disagree with them, and even though you are proposing Measures which you know will be controversial. I cannot help thinking that in some respects this Motion and the particular terms in which it is couched were devised in the fear, which I have seen written on many faces opposite, that there was a deep-laid plot on the part of the defeated Tory Opposition to hold up the magnificent sledgehammer of democracy which the hon. Member for Bolton referred to in such eloquent terms. Of course, that is not the case. On the contrary, the decision of the clectorarte, however little we may agree with it, must be accepted. It is a clear decision. That is what we live in a democracy for. Parties are defeated, they return to power, they are defeated again, and they return to power again. The essence of democracy is that on each separate occasion both sides should accept the result.

The Liberal Party and other opponents of the Conservative Party have gone down, but for 400 or 500 years at any rate the Conservative Party has come back into power, and I confidently look forward to the day when I shall attend not only the funeral of the Liberal Party but of certain other parties which have enjoyed great influence in the State. At any rate it must be clear to hon. Members on all sides that there has been no desire on the part of any section to obstruct Government Business. On the contrary, if we might sometimes have little misgivings as to the competence of some of His Majesty's present advisers, if we are a little sceptical as to the resounding success of the Measures which they propose, or of some of them, well, we do not want it to be said at any time that there is any excuse for any failure which may take place. On the contrary, I think my hon. Friends will agree with me that the policy is to give them yards and yards of rope and let them do just what they intend to do with it.

But I cannot think that the House will complain that we have been spending a long time discussing a Motion relating to procedure. The procedure of a deliberative assembly is its very life-blood and existence. If I were to make a prophecy it would be this; if, which God forbid, there ever should be a revolution in this country, either from the Right or from the Left, a revolution comparable to those which have shaken other countries, it would come not by way of banging drams and marching battalions in the streets, but by way of a Minister of the Right or the Left coming to the House, with crocodile tears in his eyes, with loud praise of the institution he was about to despatch, and with some apparently trifling procedural change which he would proceed to put forward as a matter of little moment. Therefore, we do well in the House of Commons, in this land where revolutions have always taken place through changes in procedure, to examine changes of procedure with, if not a jaundiced eye, at any rate a highly critical eye.

There is one argument which was rather implied, I thought, in the statement of the Lord President of the Council which I could not wholly accept. It is true that all we are doing this afternoon is to set up a Select Committee, and the Committee no doubt will issue its report, and then we shall know what we shall be: asked to do. There was a strong suggestion from the Front Bench opposite that it was really almost quite improper to try to anticipate the arguments of the Committee in any way or to say what we would like or not like to be done. I do not accept that, because if ever a revolution of the kind which I have suggested should take place, this is exactly the way in which it would happen. We would be: asked to set up a Select Committee. We would be told in advance, "You may not know what it is that the Government propose to put before the Committee; let us wait and see what the Committee says." Then, when the report came from the Committee in due course—which I understand is not to be too long—we should be told when we raised an objection to its findings, "Ah, but that was all threshed out thoroughly upstairs," and the moment would be gone at which any effective opposition could be raised.

This is the moment for the Government to take heed, if they will do so, of any feelings we may have in the matter. This is a Select Committee and like all other Select Committees, it therefore will correspond in composition mathematically to the Party strength in this House. That is as it should be, but it is an instruction to this Select Committee that a certain priority should be given to certain proposals of the Government, the exact nature of which we are not allowed to know. The moment that those proposals are made known to the Committee and filter through, in the way that things have, to Members of this House, all the questions of party prestige and face-saving will be aroused and it will then perhaps be too late for a minority opinion to have its effect upon the Government mind. It may be too late for such an opinion, and instead we shall be steamrollered out about a matter which might very well be the subject of compromise before those feelings were made known. It is for that reason that I share the astonishment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) that there was no healthy growl from Government benches as well as from these benches, on this occasion, a factor to which I feel I ought to refer a little more fully later.

I propose in the few minutes which I propose to take to say something about what I think would not do if it were contained in the Government proposals, which I have not been allowed to see and to which I am in no way committed. I think we should all agree that the real division between assemblies which are free and assemblies which are not free really resides simply in this. An assembly which is free is an assembly which meets together in order to modify legislation, as an assembly of representatives to affect the course of history by what it says and the way it votes. But an assembly which is not free is a convention of delegates meeting not to decide what is ultimately to be done but to register, with or without cries of protest and defiance, the decisions that somebody else has arrived at somewhere else. That is the difference between an assembly which is free and an assembly which is not free. The difference may be a narrow one and I hope to show to the House that it is a narrow one.

As hat, been indicated by the Lord President of the Council, the present procedure of the House of Commons, although in many ways it has an appearance of extreme antiquity, is not by any means as old as it seems. The present balance of power between Private Members and the Administration or between the Opposition and the Government dates from certainly no further back than the days of Mr. Gladstone, from whom the Lord President of the Council quoted. It is, in fact, the result of the impact of what was called, rightly or wrongly, the Irish obstruction upon the strong authoritarian mind of Mr. Gladstone and his Liberal colleagues. It is from that fount that we draw all the main limitations upon the rights of Private Members, the limitation on the right to move the Adjournment, the Guillotine, the Kangaroo, the Closure, and all the other instruments of torture which are invented for the affliction of those who displease the Government by taking up too much time. But although these reforms date from Mr. Gladstone and were precipitated by the Irish trouble, they also precipitated and accelerated certain general tendencies which have been going on for the last 150 years. The first of these tendencies is the gradual control by the Administration of the Business of this House.

In the palmy days of the Eighteenth Century every Member was as good as any other Member. That degree of equality is no longer permitted. Only in the moving and seconding, of the Address we find the Government adopting the ancient procedure of getting some Private Members of the House to put forward Government Business. Since those days the second of the great developments has been the formulation and the crystallisation of party government inside the House, and subsequently in the country, more or less on two-party lines. The effect of this upon our procedure and liberties has been an important one. In the first place, the right to vote as we please and in the second place the right to speak as we please, have become less important as safeguards of liberty than they ought to be. In another place it is open to a Noble Lord to enter a protest on the Journals of the House. That is not a very important liberty because it makes not the slightest difference to what is done. In this House we are entitled to divide against the Government and those who belong to a minority party—and which of us has not at some time or other?—know that however much we divide against the Government, we shall be steam-rollered out by the Government majority and that our votes will have no more effect than the action of the Noble Lord who enters a protest in the Journals of the House.

If I were: asked which I would rather lose, the right to vote or the right to criticise in public, I would abandon the right to vote first. But those developments have reduced the value of the right to speak in public too. Let me explain why. The Government are not quite the cooing doves as they appear even to their own supporters. I say that to hon. Members opposite because it is not so long ago since I too was elected as a Member of an enormous majority, pledged to loyalty to a Government which I supported. I say this in complete frankness—that the thing which ultimately compels the Government to give effect to minority opinions whether from this side of the House or that, is not the boldness with which people speak but the fact that the Government know very well that, if they do not make some modification, they will find it more difficult to get their business through. That is the plain fact. I am not talking about obstruction, which is a very different story and on which I agree with my hon. Friend for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) that there is really remarkably little in this House. If you want to have any effect whatever on the ultimate decision you have to take up some of the Government's time in order to get it. However ably you speak, if it does not take up some of the time, they will congratulate you very nicely after- wards and say, "I did not agree with you but I very much enjoyed your speech."

Here is the ultimate difference which is going to alter the character of this House of Commons from a free deliberative assembly to one which is fundamentally not free at all. If ever the Government get to know that whatever was said on either side of the House, however ably it was said, the Government were going to get through their business 100per cent. according to the time-table they themselves had arranged or which had been arranged by virtue of a prefabricated majority, then this House of Commons would cease to be a deliberative assembly even if the Government had no recourse to the Gestapo or political police which they so much resent being reminded are part of the armoury of Socialism in certain countries of the world. It is against that background that I view these proposals. It is not only the general remarks which have been made from time to time by Members of the Front Bench opposite. It would be perhaps unkind to remind the House that the Prime Minister, in writing of the problems of a Socialist Government, not very much more than 10 years ago, problems with which he is, I suppose, very much more intimately concerned to-day, should have said that
"the important thing is not to do things with the most scrupulous regard to the theories of democracy or exact constitutional propriety but to get on with the job."
I accept what the Lord President says to-day as overruling any statement in a book which might have been written some time ago. I hope also it over-rides a certain part of his speech at Bradford in March, 1944, when he said that:
"We shall have to try to conceive our legislative measures on lines of broad principle and finance so that Parliament could express its will on fundamentals. This should shorten and simplify Committee discussion."
First of all, what are fundamentals, and secondly, who is going to decide what are fundamentals and what are not? It the right hon. Gentleman means that the House of Commons ought to devote its attention, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition suggested this morning, to matters of principle, and ought on the whole to give details a miss, I am in wholehearted accord. But if it means that the Government, with a machine-made majority upstairs, are going to decide first, what are matters of principle and what are fundamentals, and then tell the House to comply, then it is more than the thin end of the wedge. It is the thick end of the wedge. If there is one vital factor in the freedom of the House of Commons, it is the undoubted right to get down to the minutest detail, to put in a word or alter a comma, or call down the Minister to explain his conduct in reference to Mrs. Smith, who lives at 78A in some little flat. These are details which if they were lost we should find we had lost fundamentals as well. It is not for the Government or even a machine-made majority to decide, or a prefabricated majority, if hon. Members prefer that expression. It is not for them to decide what hon. Members in the discharge of their duties are to consider as details and what they are to consider as fundamentals.

Would the hon. Member kindly explain what he means by a machine-made majority?

I mean a majority which is so beautifully fashioned as if by machinery, that nothing apparently can go wrong with it. But even the best made machines have sometimes suffered from technical disorders after much use. However, that is a different story.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that an election is the machinery of public expression?

I deprecate further interruption. They only appear to encourage the hon. Member's exuberance.

I must apologise if the manifest interest which hon. Gentlemen opposite are taking in my remarks is leading me too far astray from the path. There is another matter to which I wish to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention. Some 10 years ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote a book called "Practical Socialism for Britain." It is described on the cover as "Indispensable to Socialists and to their opponents," and for an inexplicable reason—I cannot explain—it is published not by Gollancz, but by Messrs. George Routledge & Sons, Limited. I suspect rather strongly that some of the ideas are passing through the Government's mind. It is for that reason only that I want to put them to the right hon. Gentleman for his consideration. He says:

"The Labour Party proposes that at the beginning of each session a small Committee of the House should be set up, and should continue in being throughout the session, to deal with the allocation of time on all Government Bills, and perhaps also on other items of business. This might be called the Committee on the Allocation of Parliamentary Time, or, more shortly, the Committee on Time. This Committee would be chosen in proportion to the strength of parties, and the Chief Whip would be the natural leader for the Government, though other Ministers might sometimes attend. It should be the primary duty of the Committee to make a detailed time-table for every Government Bill which had been read a first time, covering all its future stages: so long for Second Reading, so long for Committee, for Report, if any, and for Third Reading. Time could be allotted to particular stages in units less than complete Parliamentary days, e.g., in half-days, or even in hours. And special allocations could be made for the Committee stage, to clauses or groups of clauses, as it is now done in guillotine resolutions."
Now the books on procedure suggest—those which are edited so well by the learned Clerks—and it is universally agreed, that the guillotine procedure is the most oppressive of all the devices by which the House has been afflicted in the past 50 years. It is a necessary weapon—do not think I am attacking it—but it has always been introduced as an exceptional measure, and it has always been passionately and sincerely opposed by whatever party happened to be in opposition at the time. The right hon. Gentleman need not charge his memory very far because he will remember the times when the Conservative Government imposed the guillotine on his own party. Any attempt to impose a universal guillotine on every Government Measure, as this suggests, would be the very thing to which I have drawn the attention of the House—it would enable the Government to say, "Whatever you do, whatever you say, we know that our business is going to carry the day." And this is not the only part of this dangerous proposal. The passage continues:
"Every Government Bill would be automatically referred to this Committee, whose recommendations would be reported to the House from time to time. There should be no power to debate, or to move, Amendments, to them on the Floor of the House. There should, however, be power to challenge a Division on any block of recommendation as a whole. If accepted by the House, such recommendations would go into effect, and it would be the duty of the Chair to enforce them at each subsequent stage. Timetabling on all Government Bills would thus become universal and would be done upstairs, not wasting time and exciting passion on the Floor…
This is a minimum proposal, simple and obvious. But, if we went no farther, we should, I believe, work a practical revolution in parliamentary procedure."

With that last observation I respectfully agree. The abolition of discussion on matters of time, the specious excuse that you want to save time and to prevent exciting passions on the Floor of the House, all these are in the very nature of tyranny, because what excites passion on the Floor of this House is the very nerve and lifeblood of the existence of this House. What excites passion is the process of the hammer of Government coming down on the anvil of opposition and fashioning policy, and this must engender heat. The moment that you abolish the passion which that necessarily involves, you will emasculate this House until it becomes a pale and impotent ghost, unable to reflect the virile feelings and political intelligence of a great nation. It is because I see hidden in this proposal the possibility that something like that might be put into effect that I have ventured to address the House at some length on these general matters.

I conclude with two general reflections. What takes the time in this House is not the technical form under which proceedings are discussed or debated, it is not the conventions subject to which we have to speak and which we very soon learn, it is the very fact that people want to speak at length about the subjects which passionately interest them. I, too, have not very long ago been a new Member. I, too, thought some of the modes and ceremonies of this House somewhat archaic and wasteful in time, but I very soon began to realise that what took the time was, of course, never myself but one or two curious people who did not seem to agree with what I thought and would insist on addressing the House at length and get violently excited about something which could not have any importance, or at least I thought it could not. That is the very life-blood of this House, and if we were in any way to upset that, we should be destroying the very factor which has mercifully saved this country from bloodshed for 300 years, and we should be preventing ourselves having the right to des- cribe ourselves in the fullest sense as a free nation.

The hon. Member who represents Bolton spoke of the courage of Members of the Government and their supporters. I am bound to say I was a little disappointed at the absence of speech from the other side of the House to-day. We were told by the Lord Privy Seal that here is a majority which is different. He did not say, hon. Members will observe, like the Red Queen, that it was better; he only said that it was different. But at any rate he claimed that it was different. It has come to my ears that taunts were levelled in the days of Conservative majorities that they listened too easily to advice—to use the hon. Gentleman's expression—orto abide by the leadership of the Whips and the Government Front Bench. I do not notice very much difference in the new House from the old, not yet. We were told that this was a magnificent cross-section of the nation, the proudest and most independent nation of the world, as we would all agree——

May I suggest to the hon. Member that while we on this side of the House are very anxious inded to preserve the liberties of the individual, we nevertheless feel that the country has given a clear mandate for planning, and that that mandate must apply, in so far as it is not incompatible with the ancient liberties of the Members of this House, to the democratic planning of Parliamentary time?

In some ways that is a very proper observation, but the mandate from the country does not involve a radical change in our Constitution. The mandate from the country consists in telling the Members of the Government to pass their Measures, which they have quite properly put before the electorate, through the ordinary constitutional channels. If they find that those do not work, then they must look for a new mandate to entitle them to alter the Constitution, as has been done in the past, and if they seek to go outside the documents which they put before the electorate and effect radical changes in their Constitution without consulting the electorate, they will have to face not the protests of a numerically insignificant and defeated minority, but they will have to face what is more important, the execration of a people that they have betrayed.

No, I have been disappointed in the hon. Member and his friends. What do I see from this magnificent cross-section of the people? What do I hear from them? As regards the Government, not a squeak, not a whisper of criticism, not a sigh of resignation or even a note of interrogation. No, this is not a magnificent cross-section, it is not a majority with a difference, it is Lobby-fodder, infinitely patient, all enduring, well-whipped, and very gullible Lobby-fodder, ready to march through endless males of the Division Lobbies rather than to waste a moment of time by discharging their legitimate functions as independent Members of Parliament.

2.54 p.m.

We have just listened to what may be described as the hon. Gentleman's maiden speech from the Front Opposition Bench, and I am sure that all the House will wish me to congratulate him on the very happy time he has had during that oration. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, and let me say that I have enjoyed an enormous amount of his speech myself, as we all have. Of course, in his concluding passages, he nearly got to a state of passion, which I gather he shared with the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling)—whose speech I am sorry I missed—in making a deep protest against any absence on the Ministerial side of a split in our ranks so far. Let the hon. Gentleman be patient; he never knows what luck he may have; but I really think it is a curious way of conducting life which requires that because the Members of the Labour Party refuse to split their ranks within a fortnight of the meeting of the new House therefore they have to be abused by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) and the hon. Member for South Edinburgh. They are told that they are not the slightest use as long as they support the Government, but that the primary purpose for which they came to the House of Commons was to make themselves a nuisance to the Government and to oppose it with such regularity and determination as would provide merry sport for hon. Members opposite. This kind of provocation to disorder and trouble in the Ministerial ranks will, of course, be regarded with a sense of proportion, humour and tolerance on this side, but I have never yet known an Opposition—not even our own Opposition—that did not try to provoke the Ministerial ranks into a state of indiscipline and disorder. We shall do our best to see that those ambitions are not achieved.

The hon. Gentleman also made a passionate declaration that we have no authority to turn inside out the British Constitution. We are not proposing to do anything of the kind; but let not the Conservative Party take the view that if anybody makes changes in Parliamentary procedure with a view to Parliament becoming a more expeditious and efficient servant of the nation that therefore he is upsetting the British Constitution. The British Constitution is the result of historical change, of modification. It is perfectly free to move from precedent to precedent, and just as much to move away from precedent by making changes over the years. Merely because we probably shall make some changes in Parliamentary procedure, let not the hon. Gentleman work himself up into a state and declare that the whole fundamentals of the British Constitution are about to be undermined. That is only a rather wild way of saying that he does not agree with what we are proposing to do. Moreover, I do not know which Minister he is getting at or who he implies has had something to do with Mrs. Smith at No. 78a. I can only undertake that if he will convey the information through the usual channels we will have a look at it. I am bound to say that I do not like the 78a business; it does not sound too good to me.

I did, at any rate, do away with 18b. With regard to the point he has raised, and, which indeed, was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and has been mentioned elsewhere, namely, the subject of delegated legislation, it is quite true that while in the War Coalition Government I made two speeches in Bradford and Plymouth on delegated legislation. I gathered at the time from certain conversations which the then Prime Minister had with me, that those speeches did not meet with his entire approval. It was equally true that they did not meet with the approval of many hon. Members on the Conservative side of that House, but as far as I am concerned, taking those two speeches together, I adhere to them with frankness and with firmness, and, if I may say so to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris)—who is not here now, I think—I am getting rather bored by these monotonous, stereotyped speeches about delegated legislation, particularly when they come from rather backward-looking politicians. It really is nonsense. We have had delegated legislation right through this century, if not before. Every Government has engaged in it—Tory, Liberal, Labour, Coalition. The tendency is for it to increase, and it is bound to be so. What is the good of boggling at something which is bound to increase if the whole legislative process is to survive at all? It is really no good the hon. Gentleman making these somewhat stuffy speeches about this subject. The real point is not to resist delegated legislation as such. If properly handled, it is a good thing. If Parliament is to spend adequate time on the essentials of legislation and to do its best to avoid the guillotine—and I do not think that it can avoid it—it must unburden itself of a lot of detailed legislation in which no real element of principle or policy is involved. We can debate until we are blue in the face, but for this Government or any other Government delegated legislation has increased, will increase, and, in my judgment, ought to increase. Therefore, Plymouth and Bradford stand, as far as I am concerned.

As to the book written by friends of mine called "The Problems of a Socialist Government." I did not write anything in that book, and I am not going to take any responsibility in that respect. I do take responsibility for my speeches at Bradford and Plymouth, and I still say that, read together, they are right. The real aim should not be to resist the principle of delegated legislation, but rather—and this is the really important thing—as was done by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) in the last Parliament and Sir Herbert Williams, the hon. Member for South Croydon in the last Parliament, to devise a Parliamentary check whereby the Government may be prevented from running away with the show. I think the hon. Member for The High Peak and his friends will agree that when I was Home Secretary in the last Government we found many ways of im- proving the Procedure and form of the Orders, and we introduced notes explaining what they meant. Although I resisted it for about two years there was finally formed, with my agreement, the so-called Scrutiny Committee, which I believe to be a valuable instrument of the House. It is no good struggling against the principle of delegated legislation. It is inevitable. The thing is to find a proper Parliamentary check whereby the Government is not able to take liberties, at any rate without the House knowing about them.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Scrutiny Committee. Do the Government propose to continue it?

Certainly. It was done yesterday. I think it was a good institution and should go on. The proposed Committee, as far as I know, is not necessarily involved in the problem of delegated legislation. Delegated legislation must be considered in principle by the Government and the House in the framing of legislation as it comes, and in any legislation we shall introduce we reserve the right to utilise to an adequate extent the principle of delegated legislation, always provided that the essential principle of Parliamentary control over policy is maintained—and by that I do not mean merely control over broad slogans and resolutions—providing these essentials are preserved, the Government retains full right in the framing of its Bills to utilise the principle of delegated legislation in order that Parliament may be clear to do its real job, and not encumbered by a mass of detail which may be calculated to prevent it from doing its job.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think this is a finicky interruption, but I think that the Government have chosen to put four new Members upon the Committee. He will, of course, make clear to the House that the only person to interpret what this Committee is concerned with is the Chairman of the Committee, and that he cannot lay down now what it is concerned with?

If I may say so, I have been far more careful in not giving orders to this Committee than the Noble Lord has been in his speech this afternoon. I think that as a Member of the Committee with the longest service, which gives him a special status, quite rightly, in the Committee, he went rather a long way in telling the Committee how to do its business.

When an hon. Member is interrupted I think he has the right to reply. The right hon. Gentleman is doing me an injustice. I only stated the action I should take as a Member of the Committee. I did not seek to bind my colleagues.

That is fine; then we are both much in the same situation. The last thing I would desire to do would be to give instructions to the Committee, but the House can give instructions to the Committee if it wants to. It is superior to any Committee. As far as we are concerned we have approached this in a broad way, and we would not wish to fetter the Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) made a statement that when an hon. Member is referred to, he has the right of interrupting to reply. I would like to ask you if that is so?

May I say, with great respect, that by long-standing precedent in this House, it has always been accepted that, as a matter of courtesy, an hon. Member is invariably allowed to reply?

On this point of Order. I think the Father of the House has misled the House. It is not the case that when there are interruptions Members of all parties have refused to give way, the only exceptions generally being the Members of my party.

If the hon. Member will forgive me, I must point out that the Father of the House does not lay down the Rules of Debate.

I am much obliged for that authoritative Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a subject on which I was delicately giving a hint earlier on. The hon. Mem- ber for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) raised the question of the date of publication of the Government's proposals. In the view I have indicated to the House it is not really for the Government to fix the date. Our proposals will go to the Select Committee, and that Committee will publish its minutes of evidence from day to day. I should be surprised if, in the early days of the existence of the Committee, it does not find its work on record in some public document. The House knows how scrupulous I am not to give instructions to the Committee. The hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Captain Crowder) expressed his appreciation of our acceptance of the Amendment which he will, in due course, move. It is a sensible point, we think, and we hope it will be of service to the House in considering the matter. I would join with others in expressing to the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. Jones) my congratulations on his forthright and vigorous maiden speech and he quite rightly, I think, said to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) that hon. Members on this side of the House were not slaves and serfs and could not be dictated to by the Government, as the Edinburgh Corporation used to be dictated to and ordered about by the Lord Provost of that City.

Is it in Order, Mr. Speaker, to traduce the honour of the capital of Scotland in this fashion? I would ask for your protection.

I was not trying to score points or to be funny, but I do think that the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) renders service to the House, and I think the passage I quoted admirably stated the case for what we are trying to do to-day, irrespective of what may come out of the proceedings of the Committee in due course. It is quite right that the report of the Select Committee must be impartial and that it must be the report of that Committee and of nobody else. As to what "as soon as possible" means every man has to be his own judge, but I think that the Committee, in its own interests, should not be too slow. I hope there are no sinister implications here, otherwise it might encourage the Government to appoint a Select Committee on the procedure of Select Committees. The hon. Member for The High Peak spoke ably and intelli- gently on the matter. I was very glad to know that, broadly speaking, we had his support. If I may say so, without provoking the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert), it was a great pity he missed what was said about Private Members' Bills and Private Members' time. We need to have a sense of proportion about that. Good things have come out of Private Members' time and Private Members' Bills now and again; but there was an awful lot of good Parliamentary time wasted on discussions in Private Members' time.

I said that a lot of time had been wasted, and my Amendment would give an opportunity for reform. Perhaps I have anticipated the right hon. Gentleman. May I ask him a question? Does he, or does he not, intend, or hope, that there will ever be Private Members' time in this Parliament?

No. I have always been most cautious in my promises even in Elections—most cautious—that is why so few things can ever be quoted against me and, therefore, I do not want to go into hopes and promises. Each Session must take care of itself, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put the question at the beginning of the next Session to the Leader of the House, I shall, perhaps, if still Leader, be able to answer him. We must not get into the habit of worshipping Private Members' time, as such, in the form in which it was. I have some sympathy with the view that we have to find new and perhaps more beneficial ways in which Private Members of the House can express themselves. That is the real problem, and it does not necessarily follow that it can best be done by bringing into the House theoretical Motions or Bills. The real thing is to find a proper balance between the Government getting their Business through, and the Private Members expressing themselves in a way that enables them to influence Government policy and Government activities. That is the problem, and there are far more ways than one of doing it. If the Committee wishes to deal with Private Members' time, it can do so, and if it does not wish to do so, it need not. It is within the terms of reference. Therefore, for that reason I do not wish to give any indication of what the Committee should do on the point. It is a matter within the Committee's own hands, and I do not think it is appropriate that we should give them instructions on the point.

The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was rather afraid that we had fallen from grace, and were not going to be as bold in this matter as he hoped we would. However, I hope he has been cheered by the observations which I have made. Nobody knows, except a limited number of Members, what these proposals are, but they will know when the Committee gets about its labours. Despite the interesting origin of the proposals in a mixed Government, I think the hon. Member might find them a little more to the Left than he imagines. I shall be interested to see their effect on the minds of everybody, including those who took part in framing them.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen made a speech which was really rather reactionary on this question of delegated legislation. He was, I understand, elected with the united support of the Liberals, the Liberal Nationals, and the Conservatives in his division, and I have an idea that his speech will be acceptable to all of them when they read it. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), with his great experience of the Chair—and, to our embarrassment, of procedure before he was in the Chair, when Labour Governments were in office—delivered an interesting speech, in which he generally welcomed the proposal, subject to certain warnings which he uttered. I am sure that we would all wish to take into account anything he would say, in the light of his experience as Deputy-Speaker in this House in the last Parliament.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition came out, I thought, very well. He accepted the proposal of the Government and made a speech which was a very able one, and which did, as somebody said, largely reinforce the evidence which he gave before the Select Committee of 1931, presided over by Mr. Ernest Brown. I have already dealt with the point about delegated legislation. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition from time to time grievously misrepresents my speeches, and did so when he described this careful proposal of mine as one which meant that the House would pass a few airy resolutions and then refer them to officials in Whitehall, for them to frame and implement legislation. That does not accurately represent my ideas on the subject, even though I have stated it in language which does not rival that which we all expect and enjoy from the right hon. Gentleman. He said that the people obey because Parliament is freely elected and debates freely, and that it was not a question of carrying through the greatest number of Bills in the shortest possible time. In general, I would not dissent from the view which the right hon. Gentleman, with his great experience of Government and Parliament, expressed, and which would always entitle his views to the respectful consideration of the House. But I would remind the House that things have happened in the course of legislation, and I would like to give one example of an experience I had which, I am sure, is an experience to which we ought not to be subjected.

In 1930 I introduced the Road Traffic Bill, which was a Bill of some size, largely agreed by everybody and based, in many respects, upon a Royal Commission Report. There was no party controversy about it. It included the abolition of the speed limit, which I proposed, and which was acceptable to hon. Members opposite and their party, although not so acceptable to some of my party. The abolition of speed limits always somewhat attracts me. This Bill, which was non-controversial, went upstairs, where it was about four months in Standing Committee. The strain upon me, at any rate—I do not know about others—was terrific. I am not complaining about it, but, as I say, it was terrific. It was not because the Bill was controversial. There was no fight about it between the parties. The controversial issues were the speed limit, whether there should be tests for drivers, certain other matters, and a good deal of the principle of delegated legislation, in which I took my full share. As I say, it took about four months, and there was no doubt that much time was wasted and there was a lot of talk that ought not to have taken place. I: asked some of my Conservative friends, towards the end of it, when I was getting to break-down point, "What is all this for? Why have I to put up with this?" They replied, "We have no quarrel with your Bill, we like it and agree with it. It is not your Bill we are quarreling with at all; it is the one that is put down to come after it." This was the sad result of being a youthful and innocent Minister. I did not know that was their purpose. This monstrous misuse of Parliamentary time must not be allowed to continue——

I know, and it has to be stopped being done every day by every party, whatever the party. That is a monstrous misuse of the Parliamentary institution, the service of which is urgently needed by the people of this country. That is one of the things which we do not propose shall go on, and I do not want to make any bones about it. But we must be careful that we maintain the essentials of Debate. If you remove entirely any element of risk or gamble in the mind of a Minister, as to whether he can get his Bill, it can have its dangers. It is very good that Ministers should have to exercise their brains and mental ingenuity, and that the Opposition should have the chance of exercising theirs. Their quality is important to the collective quality of Parliament, whether they remain in office or not. If they ever have the luck to come into office again, it will be important that they should be mentally refreshed and alive. In the meantime, we will do our best to see that does not happen.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made some valuable points on our financial procedure. He suggested that on some days the House might be willing to sacrifice the formal Business on Committee of Supply and substitute for it a broader Debate, as was done sometimes during the war. I would not be averse to that being done in this Parliament, as in the last. The problem is how Parliament can function best, how it can do its work most effectively though consistently maintaining the essentials of control in its own hands. Above all, the problem is how the Private Members of the House can best play such a part in our Parliamentary procedure that they feel, as I want them to feel, not that they are frustrated, but that they are playing a great, honourable and worthy part in the shaping of the policy of our Government and the destinies of our country.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved:

"That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Procedure in the Public Business of this House and to report what alterations, if any, are desirable for the more efficient despatch of such business."

Resolved:

"That the Committee do consist of Seventeen Members."

Resolved:

"That Mr. W. J. Brown, Mr. Seymour Cocks, Mr. Cove, Captain Crookshank, Mr. Crossman, Mr. Clement Davies, Mr. Gaitskell, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, Mr. Messer, Mr. Pickthorn, Mr. James Reid, Mr. Sydney Silverman, Mr. Viant, Mr. Maurice Webb, Mr. Octavius Willey, Earl Winterton and Sir Robert Young be Members of the Committee."

Resolved:

"That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records: to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House; and to report from time to time."

Resolved:

"That Five be the quorum."

Resolved:

"That the Committee have power to appoint Sub-Committees for any purpose within the Order of Reference to the Committee."

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they do report as soon as possible upon any scheme for the acceleration of proceedings on Public Bills which may be submitted to them on behalf of His Majesty's Governnment."—[Mr. Morrison.]

I beg to move, in line 17, at end, add:

"and that during the consideration of any such scheme they do report from day to day the Minutes of Evidence taken before them and such other records relating to any such scheme as they may think fit and that if the House be not sitting, they do send such Minutes and records to the Clerk of the House, who shall thereupon give directions for the printing and circulation thereof, and shall lay the same upon the Table of the House at its next meeting."

Amendment agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Adjournment

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Mathers.]

Petrol Rationing

3.26 p.m.

The House has been talking about the liberty of speech, and I now desire to raise another question of liberty—the freedom of movement. I want to ask the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will double the petrol ration as from 1st September. I did not give him very long notice of tins subject, and as I know that he has had to change his engagements to be here I thank him for that. Petrol rationing is acknowledged to have been well done during the Coalition Government, and Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd, the then Secretary for Petroleum, was able to restore the basic ration within a week of the end of the war in Europe. I understand that the 25 per cent. increase in the ration which we are to have next month was decided last May. That means that the present Minister has been unable to make any increase as a result of the end of the war with Japan. He told us a short while ago, in answer to a written Question, that he is considering the subject, and that he proposes to make a further statement when the House resumes. I do not think that is good enough. Everywhere in the country there is disappointment, because we all know that when the fighting ceases the consumption of petrol by the Armed Forces is sharply and progressively reduced. The people expect an increase in the civilian ration to match the enormous reduction which has taken place in military needs.

I want to try to get this matter in true perspective, so that the House may measure the lack of generosity of the Minister. I do not intend to ask him the exact figures of stocks of motor spirit in this country to-day, because it would not be right for him to tell the House, but am I correct in thinking that the stocks of such spirit in the country at present would enable the present basic and supplementary ration to be continued for several years? Am I right in thinking that the consumption in one month by the Armed Forces over the last year has been equal to many years' consumption of petrol by the civilian population at the present rate? I know I am right in saying that since the end of the war there has been a glut of ocean-going tankers, that as soon as these ships could proceed independently of convoy there were more of them than were required. And also there are adequate supplies of oil in the sterling area, including Persia, which could be picked up. The tankers have to be switched from the North Atlantic route to the Persian Gulf, and this takes a little time. The question is, are the stocks on hand in the United Kingdom adequate to finance the comparatively short interval before the tankers get into position to load oil in the sterling area? I am sure they are.

If that is the case then to maintain the petrol ration at its present level just now when the holiday period is in full swing is an act of unnecessary bullying. We have had to submit to many onerous restrictions on our personal freedom during the war. One of the most irksome has been the inability to move about, caused by the necessary reduction in all forms of transport. We have been immobilised to a degree that has hurt—hurt trade, hurt health, hurt friendships, and has fallen especially hard upon old people whose movement is restricted by natural causes. We know that clothing and food rationing must continue for some time because supplies are short, but supplies of petrol are not short. Can we have an increased petrol rationing immediately?

The right hon. Gentleman might say that he cannot give us more petrol, because tyres are scarce. That argument will not do. Everyone knows that the Army has been a large user of rubber but when the battle-wastage has ended important quantities of this raw material could be diverted from military to civilian uses. He may say he cannot give us petrol because there are not enough mechanics in the garages. That was true up to the end of the Japanese war. It is not true now. Only yesterday the Minister of Labour and National Service told us that there will be a million workers redundant in two months in the munitions industries, and another million men are to be released from the Forces by the end of the year. Among those 2,000,000 must be thousands of men who would jump at the chance of good jobs in garages. If the Minister says that he must wait until petrol, tyres, mechanics, new cars, second-hand cars are all in equally abundant supply before he does anything, he will do a grave injury to the public. In this matter of restoring liberties it is always wrong to do nothing until you can do everything.

I am not only thinking of the private motorist but also of the traders, the people whose needs are called "semi-essential"; they have been hard hit. Housewives would greatly benefit if distribution of goods could be increased. Fresh vegetables and fruit are a glut in one place and scarce in another, due to the lack of transport. Then there are the bus companies. I happen to live in an inland county, Wiltshire. It is now six years since our children have seen the sea. Why do not the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Minister of War Transport put their heads together and sweep away these restrictions on day trips to the seaside? The children of Swindon and Chippenham would benefit greatly.

Right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench always have official cars and aeroplanes at their disposal. They live in a perpetual puff of priorities. They easily forget the humble citizen who on a fine Saturday afternoon has to look out of his garden gate and go no further, for want of a gallon or two of petrol. In saying this I am perhaps not being fair to the Foreign Secretary. Just at the end of the last Parliament he came down to this House, and made a most eloquent appeal for the large family car of a size suitable to his own considerable proportions. That was a very human appeal. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be behind the Foreign Secretary in his humanity in this matter, and to do his best to give us this increase at once. I ask him to double the basic ration and the supplementary ration. There is no administrative difficulty. The coupons are made out for units not gallons. Each unit can perfectly well be cashable for two gallons instead of one. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman will only tell his advisers to be a little more bold and expansive he will find that he can finance this period, while he is switching the tankers, out of the very ample stocks which must be on hand at the end of a war such as we have seen end so suddenly.

3.36 p.m.

I rise to associate myself with the Observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). Here is a clear opportunity for prompt and positive action on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. I feel that he should welcome this in a week spent, so far as Ministerial statements are concerned, in an atmosphere of Maña-na, mañana. It is true we have got through the Debate on the Address without actually hearing any right hon. Gentleman opposite proclaiming his inability to produce rabbits out of a hat, but there have been times when I felt that the statement trembled on Ministerial lips. We on this side of the House quite appreciate that time is required for the maturing of the more ambitious plans of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. What we cannot subscribe to is the theory that, because the people cannot have everything at once, therefore they can have nothing at all. This increase of the petrol ration is surely something which can be done for them now. The whole circumstances of petrol rationing were obviously revolutionised by the conclusion of hostilities; and the great flow of petrol necessary to carry our Armies to victory has now been checked and throttled down to the comparative trickle—a steady trickle perhaps, but a trickle by comparison with the previous flow—necessary for the maintenance only of our Forces of occupation.

We ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite to make some part of the difference in these totals available to the civilian population in this country, who have deserved so much by their efforts and sacrifices in war. I had not the good fortune to be a Member of this House in the last Parliament, but I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power achieved a considerable reputation as an apostle of decisive action. I suggest that in the easier circumstances of peace, he should not shrink from the physic he then prescribed for others. On Tuesday last this answer was made by the right hon. Gentleman:
"I am anxious to relax, and, as soon as possible, to discontinue petrol rationing.…"
I pause there, with permission to observe that there are two sorts of anxiety. There is the passive quality of anxiety which is generally distilled by the sufferings and discomforts of others, and which normally is found to be not incompatible with a degree of composure, and even complacency. But that is not the anxiety we look for in the right hon. Gentleman.

We look for the anxiety which goads and drives into action, the action which in other cases he was so zealous to prescribe. He continued in his answer:
"—but this cannot be done until arrangements for the import of future supplies have been reviewed in the light of the changed conditions brought about by the end of the war with Japan. At present the bulk of our supplies are coming from the United States under Lend-Lease arrangements, and considerable readjustments will have to be made in consultation with our American Allies."
In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister this morning I say nothing on that point, which is obviously now a part of a much larger undertaking.

But the right hon. Gentleman continued:
"As regards stocks in this country considerable amounts are held on military account, and I am not yet in a position to publish information about these stocks."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 455]
Perhaps he will tell the House precisely what it is which inhibits him from doing so, because I have very lively memories both as a regimental and as a staff officer during the war, which are no doubt shared by other hon. Members, of the detailed accounting in petrol that was required by military procedure. I remember later as an instructor at the Staff College that it was one of my less congenial tasks to have to impress upon polite but sceptical officer students the necessity for this detailed accounting. It seems to me that there is little jusification for the labour spent in time of war if the right hon. Gentleman is now able to come and give this dusty answer to the House.

I would suggest to him that there is a feeling that in this matter the public well-being is waiting upon administrative convenience, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman, with that zeal for action which he has associated with himself, to cut through such difficulties and administrative inconvenience, and to meet the needs of the people in this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham has referred to the various cases. I am not concerned with getting more petrol for rich and pleasure-loving motorists, if such there be in these days. I am concerned with the difference it would make to transport in the rural areas and to the legitimate recreation of hard working people who have been hard pressed by six years of war. I am anxious also to see an improvement in retail distribution, which would bring some measure of relief to hard-pressed housewives. There is the further consideration of petrol for demobilised officers and officers who are now seeking to establish themselves in civil life. In that connection it so happened that I received a letter this morning from a constituent, who says:
"I trust you will do all you can to have the petrol rationing abolished as soon as possible."
I am trying to meet his wishes.
"I am a demobilised officer trying to get established in a personal business that means my calling on many firms. I am completely hamstrung by lack of petrol."
There are many deserving cases such as this in which an increase in the petrol allowance would make a substantial difference. These are ways in which the right hon. Gentleman can make a positive contribution now to the happiness of the people, which I know him to have at heart. I do not overlook the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is compelled to give the greater part of his time to the framing of those vast plans for the future which he is fashioning for us. But I would invite him for only a short time to withdraw his gaze from the cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces of the future Socialism which he is working out for us, and bring his attention to bear on this humdrum matter, in which he can contribute to the happiness of the people at this time. I would remind him of the old Latin tag Bis dat qui cito dat which I can translate on this occasion perfectly literally as "He gives twice, who gives quickly." If he is going to be in a position to give at all, I ask him while he is yet in the way with us to make an announcement to the House before it adjourns that will do something to meet the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the people of this country.

3.45 p.m.

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) for having raised this matter at an early stage of the Debate on the Motion for the Adjournment. I have to proceed to an important engagement art Cardiff very shortly, and I hope hon. Members will forgive me if, after I have made my statement, I am allowed to go. I congratulate the hon. Member for Chippenham and the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith) on their excellent speeches, and, in particular, the hon. Member for Chippenham, who, at seems to me, was in better form in Opposition than when he sat on the Government benches. Presumably, he prefers more freedom rather than the meagre amount of responsibility he had when he sat on this side. As to the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford, it occurs to me that he was more concerned in discussing the alleged stormy petrel of the last House of Commons than he was in discussing increasing the basic ration, but the stormy petrel of the last House of Commons is not now under review.

We are concerned with the simple facts of the petrol situation. What are those facts? If right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen expect me to disclose the actual facts in our possession, they are likely to be disappointed. It was not a custom, even in peace time, to disclose our petrol stocks, because of strategic considerations, and that applied obviously during the war period and applies with equal force now, in a situation in which we are about to readjust our position in respect, not only of supplies of petrol, but of the Lend-Lease position. In fact, the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford rendered a service in reading to the House the reply I gave to a Question the other afternoon, but which, because it came at a very late stage, I was precluded from reading to the House personally. What the hon. and gallant Member has just quoted from that reply, is a complete answer to the case that has been presented in the two speeches we have heard. Are there adequate supplies of petrol in this country? The answer it that it depends on the circumstances. In certain conditions, we have more than an ample supply. If we had not to concern ourselves with the needs of the Army of Occupation, if we were assured as to the period during which the Army of Occupation would function in Europe, and, if, over and above that, we could be assured that the needs of the liberated territories—and we are bound to consider the position, both for humanitarian and economic purposes, of the needs of the people in the liberated territories;—would not increase but would diminish, then, obviously, no difficulty would present itself.

May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? Is it not a fact that all the tankers in the world are now being used, but, if they are not, there is a surplus that could be put to Europe if necessary? Are they in use or not?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to proceed and develop my argument, and I think he will find, at the end of the day, that there is a complete reply to the demand for the doubling of the ration in September. We were compelled to switch over a large amount of petrol at the end of the European war. That was necessary for service in the Far East, and it was a decision, not of this Government or of myself, but of the Coalition Government, and a decision about which no one could make any complaint. We are not yet fully advised on whether we can switch back to this country the supplies that were diverted at that time, and, obviously, it would be impossible in the first days of September to divert supplies of petrol now in stock, but which may be required at a subsequent stage for perhaps more important purposes than private motoring. It would be quite impossible for us to do that without reviewing the whole position.

Let it be clearly understood that no injury is likely to be inflicted on industrial users. The hon. Member for Chippenham seemed to allege that people were precluded from obtaining the necessary-supply of goods because insufficient petrol was available for industrial use, but that is not so. Even the Minister of War Transport, only the other day, made an announcement which makes it abundantly clear that provision will be made for industrial users. As regards provision for buses, it is well known that even if we made available a larger supply of petrol we have to consider the shortage in labour supply, the absence of drivers and conductors, and, if my hon. Friends wish to know the actual position on that head, I would refer them to what was said by the Minister of Labour on the speeding-up of demobilisation plans.

May I ask a question? The right hon. Gentleman mentioned industrial users. Do I take it that he includes agriculture? Will there be any difficulty for the future in getting as much petrol as we want in agriculture?

All I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman, whose interest in agriculture is well known, is that, if any difficulty should emerge, as regards facilities for petrol supply for agriculture in this country, the agricultural interests have only to make representations and I hope they will be met satisfactorily.

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but there is a slight distinction. Those of us engaged in agriculture have, I think, very naturally and properly, been doing our level best to reduce our demands to a minimum, even at the cost of considerable inconvenience, and, too often, some delay. I am sure it would make a very great difference if we were told that supplies were sufficiently easy without going to the extent of abolishing rationing, so that the extremely careful scrutiny of every gallon we use could be slightly modified in the course of the next few months.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and, in reply, I can say, and I think it is a fair reply, that we should deal with every case on its merits. If submissions are made to this Department, or to the Ministry of War Transport giving the facts of the situation, we shall give them very active consideration, and do our best to satisfy the interests concerned.

It is rather important, and I was wondering whether it is realised by the Area Controllers, who are the Petroleum Controllers, that they can look with a slightly less jaundiced eye on normal applications for a little extra petrol for tractors and lorries.

I am satisfied that my regional officers will take note of what I say, and that must suffice for now. The hon. Member for Chippenham said that I might adduce certain arguments as reasons for not responding to his request, and he suggested that I might say that there was a scarcity of tyres. I shall do nothing of the sort, because it has nothing to do with the case, nor am I likely to say that there is difficulty about mechanics, because that also has nothing to do with the case. All I am concerned about is that we are about to terminate the Lend-Lease system, and that presents very grave difficulties, financial and economic, for this country, and, I should add, not merely for Members of His Majesty's Government but for hon. Members of this House and the people we represent outside. We have to consider our exchange position, and, if difficulties should arise in respect of that position, we might even have to diminish supplies to motor users in this country. I hope that will not arise.

Supposing I were to respond to the request of hon. Members and other people who have written to me on the subject, and to the newspaper scribes who write, but are usually ill-informed, on matters of this kind? If I were to respond in September by doubling the ration, and then find, in October, that I was in the position of having to remove it, there would be much more criticism than there is at the present time. If I may say so to right hon. and hon. Members, I would rather abolish the petrol rationing system altogether—not relax it, but abolish it. It may be that I shall not be in that position for some time, but, at any rate, I must be permitted to review the position, and readjust myself to the new circumstances, and I hope that hon. Members will allow me to do so.

As I understand it, my hon. Friends are anxious to satisfy those people who desire me to give them a holiday in the month of September. I share with them the desire that everybody should have a well-earned holiday. I shall not have one myself, for obvious reasons, but that is by the way and I am not making any complaint. Clearly, if we were to prepare for the holiday season at all, we should have prepared long ago, and not have waited until the end of August. We should have prepared in the month of May. [Interruption.] It is all very well for hon. Members to speak of the termination of the Japanese war, but that is only recent—the other day. Surely, they will not expect us to readjust our position throughout the range of social, economic and industrial policy, in the course of a couple of weeks? They will get action soon enough. Let them be under no illusion. There will be plenty of action, and decisive action, from the Government on these benches—perhaps more than some hon. Members care for. I hope that, when that action comes, the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford will get up and glorify this Government instead of criticising it, but we shall wait and see.

It is quite impossible for us now to prepare for the holiday season. It is perfectly true that the decision which I implemented the other day, namely, a meagre increase in the petrol allowance, was a decision of the Coalition Government. It might be argued that the Coalition Government of that time might have considered the holiday situation in September, but that is our position now. I am very sorry that I cannot respond to the demands that are made for an increase in the petrol allowance. I wish I could, but I am unable to do so because of the stock position and because of the diminution of stocks. I cannot disclose the actual figure, but there has been a steady decline in the stock position over recent weeks. Because of the stock position and particularly because we must adjust ourselves to the termination of the Lend-Lease system, I ask hon. Members to be patient for a little while. I hope when we resume after the Recess I may be in a much stronger position, on the basis of the facts submitted to me, to offer a little more encouragement to the House.

House Of Commons (Refreshment Department)

4.1 p.m.

I am now asking the House to change the subject of the Debate to a matter that affects every hon. Member and his guests, and also the staff of the House of Commons, including the waiting staff. I want to initiate a Debate and make some suggestions to the Kitchen Committee. I hope the Kitchen Committee and, in particular, the Chairman will not think we are criticising them. We had a Debate last December which, I think, hon. Members who were in the House in the last Parliament will agree, brought about a certain amount of improvement. Therefore, I do hope they will regard my remarks as being uttered in the most friendly way and in a sense which will provide an opportunity for other hon. Members who have views to make their suggestions.

In the first place, Mr. Speaker, may I thank you for allowing me to raise this matter, because it is not usually in Order for the House of Commons to refer to the work of Select Committees which it has appointed, but in view of the fact that this Committee is an executive committee, as opposed to a committee of inquiry, I, with respect, feel that the decision to allow this Debate to take place is a correct decision. In the first place, I would like to refer to the conditions of the staff. Hon. Members may have seen in "Reynolds News" of 17th June last the following article:
"In consequence of the General Election all waiters and waitresses at the House of Commons have been dismissed with one week's notice as from yesterday. No rights of reinstatement are reserved for them. If they want to return into the service of the new Paliament they must apply for re-engagement. These facts were communicated to them in an unsigned letter from the Refreshment Department which was handed to the men and women in their employ on Prorogation Day. The letter says:
'As a result of the Dissolution of Parliament the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons will cease to function. Full basic rates of wages will be paid up to and including 23rd June. It is anticipated the House will resume their sittings during the last week in July or early in August, and if you wish to be re-employed please apply in writing to the Manager of the Department not later than 7th July, 1945, who will let you know if your application is successful.'
Hither to waiters have received 32s. as a retainer during the Parliamentary Recess."
Hon. Members in the old House, and in this House, no doubt, will feel that the House of Commons should surely be a model employer, and it is very humiliating and wrong, in my opinion, that the staff, who are so good and courteous in their treatment of Members, should be treated in that most casual way. Therefore, on behalf of the staff, if I may say so, I beg the new Kitchen Committee to look into the position of the question of dismissal. As I understand it, the legal position is this, that the Kitchen Committee are the employers, and as soon as the Kitchen Committee is dissolved by the coming to an end of the Session or of the Parliament, there is, legally, nobody who does employ these staffs at all. But I am sure that some kind of arrangement will be made by which some person, in those circumstances, will be the nominal and legal employer of the staff during Recesses and after a Dissolution of Parliament.

There seems to be some doubt as to the amount of funds which the Kitchen Committee has, so far as superannuation is concerned. I asked a question of Sir Bracewell Smith, the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee in the last Parliament—hon. Members are aware that one is: asked to pay a penny towards the Staff Kitohen Fund—and he said that the Fund was started in 1934, and that the amount collected was £1,789 5s. 10d. and that on 12th December, 1944, the amount was £1,189 9s 1d. The reference is Volume 407, col. 37. Then we had the curious position that Mr. Muff, at that time Member for East Hull, in a speech referred to in Volume 406, said that the amount collected in pennies was £3,290.There is some difference between the amounts, and I am not in a position to know which is correct. Perhaps the Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) could tell us something about that. I do hope the new Kitchen Committee will not only look into the conditions of the staff and their payment during the time Parliament is sitting, and also during the Recesses, but will also announce some proposal to the House so far as superannuation rights are concerned.

I think the tipping system is something that really is unpopular to both the donor and the donee. The House of Commons is often referred to as "the best club in the world." I do not think it is a club; it is nothing like it at all. The amount of dislike that hon. Members have for one another does not obtain anywhere else in the world. But there is one thing about clubs, and it is that in some of the big clubs, mainly supported by hon. Members opposite, a member of the club will get an immediate cancellation of his membership if he tries to tip any member of the staff. I therefore suggest to the Kitchen Committee that they should look into the question of tipping. It may be that there should be a surcharge on the bill, or some other method by which both the waiter or waitress and the Member will be relieved from the humility of this surreptitious form of—I will not say corruption, but donation. The letters T.I.P.—I am sure hon. Members do not know.this—stand for the words "To insure promptness." Therefore, I think it is rather a reflection on the staff that you have to hand out something to ensure their promptness.

There is another thing I would like to suggest to the Kitchen Committee. Per- haps they would take evidence on how much the waiting staff do get in tips, and replace that part of their income by a proper salary. They have to make a return to the Income Tax authorities. I think the Kitchen Committee should be big about this, and abolish tipping altogether and see that the waiters and waitresses are paid a proper and even a handsome salary. I think also the staff is overworked. Anybody who in recent years has tried to get into any of the dining rooms in this House will know that there are queues and long waits, and I think probably the staff could be doubled in number. However, that is a matter upon which, I am sure, the Kitchen Committee will take evidence from the manager, whose appointment, I think I can, on behalf of all Members, warmly welcome. There has been a very definite improvement in the quality of food since the change was made some months ago. In fact, when I came in, having taken my seat in the General Election, I went up and: asked him where he sat for, and I am sure other hon. Members have done exactly the same thing. His is a new face, and we know "new brooms sweep clean," but he is certainly making a very noticeable improvement which I am sure has been observed by hon. Members who were here in the last Parliament.

Then there is the question of accommodation. It is a great deal too limited. There are 174 seats in the ordinary Members' dining room, and something like 84 in the dining room where hon. Members may take their friends. This House of Commons is larger by 25 Members. It is going to be a full House of Commons, and I say frankly that it is not going to be like the last House of Commons where, on some days, there was hardly anybody here. We are going to have lively Debates, often followed by Divisions. In other words, party Government has been resumed, with 640 Members in this House, and in some way or other further accommodation has to be found so that Members can have their meals when they want to. It is not easy when taking pant in the business of this House to eat at half-past twelve. Hon. Members ought to have the facility of being able to eat well, and eat when they want to, and should be able to entertain their friends well. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in the last Debate said we ought to be able to entertain people in a reasonable and civilised manner. I think the House of Commons, in the past, has been rather too shy in asking for proper treatment.

One of the things I found in the earlier Debates we had on this subject was a readiness on the part of the Kitchen Committee, or possibly the late Chairman of it, to accept a "No" from Government Departments. That is quite wrong. There is a tendency for hon. Members of this House to give up their rights much too easily. I tried to get this Debate today in order to strengthen the hands of the Committee, so that they will not take a "No" from the Ministry of Food or from the Minister of Labour, on the question of waiting staff, and so that they will not take a "No" from the Treasury so far as the payment of staff wages is concerned. We shall be behind the Kitchen Committee. This House is almost all-powerful, and I suggest to the Kitchen Committee that they have a big job of work to do. I estimate that hon. Members will be working here something like 60 hours a week, and they should, therefore, be properly looked after. I do not propose to add anything because I know other hon. Members have points to make, but I would say, Mr. Speaker, that you want the best legislators and we have got them. I hope the Kitchen Committee will look after them.

4.14 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it possible to-day for us to raise this question relating to the Refreshment Department. I want to deal with one point which affects the staff of the Refreshment Department. In common with other Members, I recently received a letter from an ex-member of the staff of the Refreshment Department, and I would like to read the relevant paragraphs of that letter because I think we owe a duty to the members of that department, who have served the Members of this House, to see that they are fairly and properly treated. The letter says:

"On the dissolution of Parliament on 15th June approximately 80 per cent. of the staff were given notice of dismissal and included amongst these were many old and loyal servants to the House and its Members. Some had 20 years service and upwards and most of these had never failed to do their duty by the Members, being at duty during the blitz and the bombardment of London. Some have lost their lives, others are ex-Servicemen among them, but with all this loyalty just a simple change of managers causes a change in the Refreshment Department; that is both unfair and unjust. Through this action some of these staff may lose their superannuation, and I beg. Sir, that you as a Member of the last Parliament will, I feel sure, very seriously inquire into these grave injustices to the old and loyal servants to the House of Commons and its Members."
I do not wish to prejudge the merits of this issue at the present moment. All I rise to ask is that the new Kitchen Committee should inquire into the circumstances of these dismissals and should at an early date report to this House on the matter. The treatment of these people is a matter for all the Members of this House and we should, if necessary, be able to debate the matter at a later stage.

4.16 p.m.

It might at first sight create an adverse impression among those who have sent us here so recently if we should occupy part of our first Adjournment Debate discussing our own creature comforts, but I think that, on second thoughts, the public will realise that the efficiency of this House is a matter of first-class importance and that when we return from this Recess we shall be confronted with long and late Sittings over contentious legislation. Hon. Members must therefore be kept fit for those arduous labours. As the House has already heard, we are likely to spend 60 hours per week in the Palate of Westminster alone, and with Standing Committees in full operation this matter of the Refreshment Department is important, and the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) need not apologise for raising it now.

"Feed the brute" is as good a motto for the Mother of Parliaments as it is for mothers in the ordinary walks of life. I intervene as a critic of the Kitchen Committee of some 10 years' standing who has just received, possibly, the appropriate sentence for his activities by being appointed by his fellow-Members to serve on that body. I can say, in all good temper, that it is sometimes salutary for those who have fulminated for 10 years against an administration to find themselves confronted with the same problems and have to solve them. With regard to the present congestion, and the queuing which has become necessary, particularly in the cafeteria, I have looked in vain so far for the impressive figure of the Minister of Food because I thought it might be a useful exercise for the right hon. Gentleman to experience in a modified form the ordeal through which the housewives of the country are passing day by day. There are many difficulties of a transitory nature with which the new Kitchen Committee is confronted. The building of a new Chamber and the reconstruction of the immediate precincts have created a shortage of accommodation. The increase of membership in this Parliament from 615 to 640 may seem trifling, but it has been quite a factor not only in supplying meals but, as hon. Members have already discovered to their cost, in other parts of the building, such as the Library.

There is another difficulty. The arrival of such a large percentage of new Members, who are naturally anxious to exhibit themselves in their new and exalted surroundings to admiring relatives and constituents, has, for the time being, created a certain amount of congestion in the Refreshment Department. Much the same thing happened in 1931 when some of us arrived here for the first time and there was an equal influx of new Members. We were not however confronted then with food and man-power problems. I am certain also that many Members take lunch in the House of Commons because of the overcrowded conditions in restaurants in the precincts of Westminster. All those matters are only transitory. There are also difficulties of wartime, and of staff shortage. I hope the House will be indulgent to the Kitchen Committee, which was elected only 48 hours ago. We have had one meeting and these problems have had a very brief review under the able chairmanship of the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) who will be endeavouring to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in order to make a statement about what has been done.

As hon. Members probably know, some steps are being taken to relieve the congestion so far as is practicable. Probably the hon. Gentleman who raised the matter is aware that what is now the Members' bar is to be taken into the Strangers' dining room to relieve the congestion and the bar transferred to the Strangers' smoking room on the Terrace level, and that the Members' tea room is to be extended to embrace what was the cafeteria in the last Parliament, thereby increasing the accommodation in the Members' tea room. Other possibilities are being examined, involving negotiations with other authorities who are concerned in this matter besides the Kitchen Committee. The hon. Member probably knows that there is rather more involved in this matter, and that other bodies have to be consulted.

Of course, the chief function of the Kitchen Committee is to provide meals at reasonable prices as cheaply as possible for hon. Members. Attempts have been made in the past, not always successfully, to cater in this way. Hon. Members in previous Houses may remember that the Kitchen Committee of that day put on what, as a Yorkshire Member, I am going to describe as a Yorkshire tea. It was not very well patronised. It may be better patronised in this House, and is, therefore, something which might be revived. The question of supplying hon. Members with meals cheaply is intimately bound up with the other point which the hon. Member opposite raised. I want to speak very frankly on this matter. None of us in the last Parliament could adjourn for a Recess without having on our consciences the thought of the staff. For the whole Recess, until such time as the House reassembles, they have to earn their livelihood by going to seaside hotels and other establishments of that sort. I endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said. I always felt that state of affairs was most discreditable to the House of Commons, which should certainly aim at being a model employer. This year the position is intensified. The House generally rises at the end of July, and the staff are able to go straight to their employment in the seaside hotels. This year, the House has sat through August, and the cream of that particular form of employment has now been skimmed. I think hon. Members will be somewhat relieved to know that arrangements have been made for a payment during the Recess with which the staff have described themselves as satisfied. I want to be quite clear——

It has been reported to us as satisfactory but we have no knowledge, and no means of finding out other than asking individuals whether they are satisfied or not.

I accept that, and may I say that in the short meeting we had, the source of information available stated that the staff were satisfied? I did make some later inquiries about it which confirmed that view. It still however makes it necessary for them to supplement their income, which should not be difficult in the present state of the catering industry. I think my colleagues, of whom the hon. Member is one, will endorse my statement when I say that the new Committee are aiming to do far better than that. What we aim at is some form of remuneration during the Recess, and holidays with pay for the staff of the House of Commons. All those things will have to be reflected, unless certain arrangements can be made of a financial nature, in the cost of the meals charged in the dining room of the House of Commons. I am sure that hon. Members would not wish, to be confronted with a situation where they were enjoying cheap meals at the expense of proper holiday payments for their staffs. One must be perfectly frank upon that point. One may be able to get help from a certain source which it is probably unwise to mention. The Committee certainly has that in mind.

This short Debate has been most valuable to the new Committee. I am sure that the views expressed will be carefully considered and the hon. Members concerned will go through the speeches during the Recess and we shall arm ourselves with what has been said opposite. The Kitchen Committee, as new Members might not know—and I mention it for their benefit—is a body drawn from both sides of the House, weighted, in ratio to party strength on the Floor, just in the same manner as the Select Committee which was discussed earlier to-day. It is, in fact, a form of Coalition Government under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for North Tottenham. We are determined to work together as a team, for the benefit of the House as a whole.

I ask for the new Committee the same consideration which the Prime Minister: asked for Ms new Ministers. He: asked for time for them to familiarise themselves with their Departments, which most of us regarded as a euphonious way of saying that they have got to learn their jobs. That is the position also of the Kitchen Committee. When the Government and the House return in the autumn to wrestle with matters economic, the Kitchen Committee will do its best to wrestle with matters gastronomic with results which, I hope, will be agreeable, not only to our fellow Members, but gratifying also to the staff who minister so diligently to our needs.

4.28 p.m.

I thank the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) for raising this question as he did last year and as I did last year also. There are three things concerned, the comfort and welfare of Members, the comfort and welfare of our guests—which is very important—and, last but not least, the comfort and welfare of the staff. I will not repeat all that has been said before, but I want to make the point that, whatever problem arises—and I am supporting the Kitchen Committee and not attacking them—whether it is a question of opening the private rooms, and giving more space, or retaining fees for the staff, or whatever it may be, we always run up against some Government Department. "The Treasury won't do this" or "The Ministry of Labour won't do that," we are told, and I am now going to give an answer. As there are so many new Members I shall make no apology for repeating some of the things I said in the similar Debate last year.

I am the only man in this House and probably the only man alive who has prosecuted the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons for selling drinks without a licence. I am delighted that I was unsuccessful, but I can tell you that it is no mean feat to go to Bow Street on a Monday morning, and prosecute the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons. The case was finally decided by a very strong court. The ground of the decision given by Lord Hewart that this House was not governed by the Licensing Act, was this quotation—and I think I have it quite right—from Lord Denman's judgment in the case of Stockdale versus Hansard where he said something like this:
"The Commons of England are not invested with more of power and dignity by their legislative character than by that which they bear as the grand inquest of the nation."
This is the point of the quotation:
"All the privileges that can be required for the energetic discharge of the duties inherent in that high trust are conceded without a murmur or a doubt."
The Kitchen Committee know very well that the things for which they ask are not conceded without a murmur or a doubt. We shall be behind them if they go to any Government Department and quote that judgment and say, "We are the House of Commons, fortified by the High Court, and although we do not want cocktail parties or similar forms of indulgence, because of our importance what we ask for you must give, whether it is money, or whatever necessary for the welfare of the Members and their servants."

4.30 p.m.

I want to support my hon Friend who raised this question. I have been here for some years, and I doubt whether any hon. Member can tell us the conditions under which the staff work. I have tried to find out on many occasions, but all down the years there seems to have been a veil cast over the conditions of the staff. This is an amazing place as far as the dining and refreshment rooms are concerned, and it is difficult to find out anything. I do not know whether any hon. Member knows the wages that are paid. I hope we shall be able to know in future, and also what the hours of work and the conditions for superannuation are. As far as I can see the hours fluctuate very badly, and at certain times of pressure we get a very tired staff. I am not, therefore, concerned with what one hon. Member has described as the creature comforts of Members of the House. I am more concerned with getting decent conditions for the staff, because I think the creature comforts will flow from them.

During the years I have been here there has been dissatisfaction among the staff, a feeling of insecurity, of injustice and of being treated badly. I hope that the new Kitchen Committee will realise that this feeling exists and will take steps to alter it. My hon. Friend said that tip meant "to insure promptness." Is that right in this House? Anybody who has been here for some time knows that it means "to insure privilege." The bigger the tip, the bigger the smile, and the smaller the tip the greater the tendency to a sour face. I am not blaming the staff for that. I want conditions in which a money tip does not insure privilege as against Members who cannot pay a tip. I hope that the Kitchen Committee will abolish tipping.

I wonder whether it will be possible to have some sort of organisation among the staff so that they can make collective representations. They seem to be more afraid of trade unionism inside the House than outside it, and I wonder whether the new Kitchen Committee, which is one of the hopes of the new Parliament, will be able to get a feeling of confidence among the staff so that they can have a collective organisation through which their requests can be considered. There is a suggestion book in the dining room, and I do not know how much notice is taken of the suggestions made, but I want something firmer than that. It is significant that some time ago there was a suggestion that one of the members of our staff committed suicide owing to the conditions obtaining here. I will not enter into the question whether there is any substance in that, but the fact is that it reflected on the conditions of service in this House. I want to have conditions in which no suggestion can be made, and it is for the new Committee to see that the staff has proper conditions of service, proper wages, security of tenure and pension rights. If they get that the staff will be contented, and I am certain that the service in the House will inconsequence greatly improve.

4.37 p.m.

I am glad that this subject has been raised. Most of us would have liked on many occasions in the past to insist more strongly than has been possible that the question of a permanent staff should be thoroughly thrashed out. I have felt for a long time that we would never get the entire happiness and good will of those who do a tremendous lot for us unless they were on a permanent footing. I understand that some proposals are now being considered. Let them be considered in a broadminded way with a view to what is demanded of the staff. It is not as though the staff were serving ordinary people who were never in a hurry, under ordinary conditions at regular hours. Some of us are in a great hurry and have sometimes to eat at the most unusual hours. There are two main problems before the Kitchen Committee. The first is to build up a permanent staff which will be ready and willing to put up with difficult conditions for some time—because they are bound to be difficult for some time—and with a great deal of hard work at times, a staff with which will be ready to face terrific rushes at unusual hours at the day and night. We have seen in the war tremendous growth of the idea of canteens and the feeding of workers. I claim that we are workers here, or we should be workers, and that we are entitled to feed, if we are to do our job properly, at the times when it is possible for us to do so.

I know what a tremendous problem faces us under existing conditions of staffing and food supplies, but let us smash down some of the fences erected by Government Departments. We will back up the Kitchen Committee in doing it. There is nothing selfish and unjust in such a claim. It is not right, especially as we have a large number of new Members, that Members should go through the mental and nervous strain of having to wait before they catch the Speaker's eye, and then, after delivering their maiden speeches, putting all their vigour into it, when they go outside, should find they can hardly get anything to eat. I beg the Kitchen Committee to remember these points and to be harsh and tough about them. The demands as regards feeding arrangements vary as between Parliament and Parliament, and we must adjust the arrangements to the needs of the Parliament. The arrangements made in the last Parliament are not necessarily suited to this Parliament. The demands will be different, and the means to met them must be devised.

4.42 p.m.

After the interesting discussion we have listened to, I feel almost tempted to ask for the indulgence of the House in making my maiden speech as Chairman of the Kitchen. Committee, to which thankless task I was elected about 24 hours ago. I am sure that the hon. Member for Uneaten (Mr. Bowles) and the other hon. Members who have put forward useful and wise suggestions, did not do so as any reflection on the Committee, because it was appointed only on Tuesday, but that what they intended to do was to convey their views to the new Committee. Had there been a much larger House, those views probably would have been confirmed by the great majority of Members. We had our first meeting yesterday, and I have not yet had a sufficient opportunity to collect the voices of the new Committee as to their views upon the various matters that have been referred to. I was impressed by their keenness and the desire really to put the Kitchen Committee on the map. It is obviously impossible for me to reply on behalf of the Committee, but I do not think any Member of the Committee will differ when I say what my conception of the functions and policy of the Kitchen Committee ought to be. It is to control the arrangements of the kitchen and refreshment rooms of the House of Commons, in such a manner as will supply food and refreshment at reasonable prices for all Members, officers, staff and visitors, and to see that the working conditions and remuneration of the staff are of a standard that the House would desire.

The Kitchen Committee consists of 17 members, of whom no less than 13 have never served on it before. I am therefore sure that Members will realise that it may take them some little, time to acquaint themselves fully with the facts before they can come to the important decisions they will have to make in the near future if I have rightly gauged the feeling of the House on this matter. It is perfectly well known to all those hon. Members who were here before the last election, and the others will soon find out, that there are certain very special problems in connection with the Kitchen Committee. It will be the task of the Committee to endeavour to solve those problems, or at least to make some substantial contribution towards their solution. I do not propose to go into that at the moment, but in connection with what has been said I should like to pay a tribute first of all to the last Kitchen Committee and to the work that its Chairman did, and secondly to the staff of the House of Commons during the last Parliament.

If hon. Members cast their minds back to the circumstances under which catering was carried on during the war years, they will see what I mean. On three occasions we were bombed out of the building altogether, and had to remove ourselves at an hour or two's notice to Church House. The staff was ready to serve meals within an hour or two. Many of the staff were bombed out of their own homes, and were sleeping on the premises, anywhere they could find room. In the early days of the war some of the lady members of the staff who have been in the employment of the Kitchen Committee for a great many years and who slept in the upper part of the Palace of Westminster were bombed out from there and had to be removed for greater safety to other rooms down below, the rooms used by Members for private dinner parties had to be taken over for other purposes, the Harcourt room which was of so much use to Members in the old days, had to be used for sleeping accommodation for firewatchers, Home Guard, and other war services, and altogether it was a very difficult time. Frankly I think that this House owes a debt of gratitude to the members of its staff for the way they carried on during those difficult years. Although the war is over the difficulties are by no means ended, and the new Committee will, I am quite sure, do its best to tackle them. One or two Members have pointed out that other Departments are involved, and that the Kitchen Committee is not a law unto itself. The Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Labour, and more particularly two departments of the Palace of Westminster—those of the Serjeant at Arms and of Mr. Speaker himself—are concerned. The latter two have always been very helpful, and I am glad to say that Mr. Speaker—I do not think he will object to my saying so now—after I had indicated to him some of our ideas, gave me an assurance of his support and of that of the Serjeant at Arms in our efforts to make real progress in solving the problems which have been hanging about for a matter of 20 years or more.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton mentioned a number of points with regard to superannuation, tipping, and so on. Twice during my service on the Kitchen Committee we have endeavoured to tackle the question of tipping, but we have failed to find any real practical solution. If any hon. Member thinks he has in mind a real practical scheme for the abolition of tipping, we on the Kitchen Committee should be very grateful if he would send it to us. Two things -upset me personally. One is the tipping system and the other is the fact that the people who frequently do the most unpleasant part of the work, namely, the people who peel potatoes, and do other work in the kitchen—the invisible staff—get no tips at all. I have never yet heard of a Member of Parliament who was so pleased with his lunch that he decided to go into the kitchen and tip the fellow who peeled the potatoes. It is always the person who has done nothing towards cooking the food who receives the tip. Any suggestion on these subjects will be taken into consideration, and that applies equally to the general subject of complaints. There is a complaints book in the Members' Room, and any complaints entered in it will not only be brought to my notice as Chairman of the Committee, but I will see that they are read out to the Committee when it meets.

Hon. Members have paid a tribute to the new manager, and this is one of our further difficulties. The new manager was only recently appointed, and I would like to endorse what has been said about the improvements which have since taken place. We have every confidence in the new manager, and we hope that, given some of the conditions we ought to have had years ago, and which we will now try to obtain, we shall be able to bring about a substantial improvement. An hon. Member opposite said that in 1931 a similar state of affairs existed to that which has existed during the past font-night. That is not so. There has been more activity in this building during tine last fortnight than there has ever been in the history of Parliament, and a depleted staff has been called upon to do almost double the amount of business that has ever been done before. I know there have been a lot of things to grumble at, but I think Members ought to be thankful that the depleted staff has stood up to the invasion which has taken place. They have had to work long hours, and we on the Kitchen Committee will have to try to deal with that point, which is a difficult one because if hon. Members make up their minds to have ah all-night Sitting we cannot send the staff home at 8 o'clock. Where are we to get staff to carry on, if we do?

One of the mistakes made in the past has been the attempt to conduct the refreshment department of the House of Commons as though it were an ordinary business. It is not, and it does not resemble an ordinary business. Things here have to be dealt with in a special way, and if we try to run it as an ordinary business we shall not make much headway. I would like to thank all Members on behalf of the Kitchen Committee for the way they have treated us. It was good of them not to censure us at the start. I told the Committee yesterday that its last Chairman used to be very fond of saying to me, "I get a real kick out of being Chairman on the Kitchen Committee." I added that there was every indication that the whole of the Committee would get several real kicks before they had finished.

Requisitioned Property (Release)

4.55 p.m.

I am afraid the points I wish to raise will seem to deal almost entirely with my own constituency, but in fact I believe they have a fairly general application throughout the country, or at any rate certain parts of the country. They refer almost wholly to the question of the derequisitioning of properties held by the Services. There are other Government Departments which hold properties in my Division, but we have not the means of knowing exactly how many are so held or how many have been recently derequisitioned. In the last Parliament, when we discussed the Defence Areas, several hon. Members made the request that one Minister should be able to deal with these problems, which were getting more and more critical. That, however, was not possible. During this week, in an attempt to get the situation cleared up, I have had to ask Questions in the House on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to different Ministers, have had to take part in a deputation to another Ministry on Monday, and finally, have had to ask the three Service Ministers to be kind enough to spare some of their time and come here this afternoon, which they have kindly done, to see whether we can clear up the situation. I hope that something will be done in future weeks and months to get one Minister responsible for dealing with the whole of this problem.

The history of requisitioning, as far as we are concerned in Brighton, and for that matter along the South coast and many other parts of the coast, is that, after Dunkirk, people were: asked to leave their houses and schools, if they possibly could, and move inland to safer areas. Largely because of that—although I have no doubt that had they not gone away they might still have had their premises requisitioned—they went away and the Forces moved into these houses, schools and hotels, and remained, quite rightly, right up to D-Day and until the European war was over. We then began to hope that the derequisitioning period would start fairly quickly. We began to hear of the coming to our area of large numbers of holiday makers, workers and others who wanted rest: but at that time we warned the Government that we could not do anything about putting up these people. There were no places in which to put them unless the Forces left the houses and premises which they occupied. Nothing happened about it. I believe that at the present time, as regards hotels and houses that have over 50 rooms in them, practically the same number are now retained as were retained six months ago.

What is the reason for this very long delay? We know that there is the question of prisoners of war who have come back and have to be placed somewhere. We know that some of the Dominions Forces are still in our area, but most of them are going, if they have not already gone. We know, too, that the Dominion Governments in many cases ask that their people, especially the prisoners-of-war coming back, should be looked after in places such as our own, and we were more than willing, and still are delighted, to have those people there, and to give them as good a time as we can; but we do want the Dominion Governments to realise that that has meant a very great strain on us. Our area has been a banned area. We have been a front-line town, as have other towns; we have suffered very considerably during a very long period. The hotels and places in which these people are living are not quite the same as the premises which are requisitioned in many other parts of the country, where it would merely be a question of ordinary private people going back to their homes. In our case it is a question of the livelihood of a whole town, the lodging house industry, the catering industry, the hotel industry and the school industry. All these are held up, and at the present time look as if they may be held up for quite a time longer.

Let it not be forgotten that when one house is taken over by the Forces it means that all the furniture has to be taken out, and therefore, the taking over of one house really means taking over 1½ or 1¾ houses, because the furniture has to be moved out and dumped in other people's houses. A large number of houses in the town are stored with the furniture of people who cannot get back to their own houses and premises. I am rather inclined to think there is some lack of co-ordination between the different Ministries. One of the answers I got last Tuesday from the Secretary of State for War, telling me how many houses had been derequisitioned, said:
"Seventy-four houses and flats in the two boroughs have been relinquished by the Army since VE-Day. It will be appreciated that some of these properties may be retained by the Ministry of Health for housing purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 430.]
I should be very glad if the Financial Secretary could clear up that answer. Only the day before yesterday I was in a deputation to the Ministry of Health in regard to the general question of housing in the borough, and I came away definitely with the feeling that the Ministry of Health were most anxious to help the council to get on with its job and to do everything in their power to make the council the body to help in our very critical problem of dealing with the poorer people who are coming in and coming back. Large numbers of people have come down to Brighton from London and have not been able to go back as yet. Again, vast numbers of our citizens in the Forces have got married and are now coming back. Roughly speaking, the council's position at the present time is that there are in Brighton alone on the list of people requiring accommodation over 2,000 families living in such appalling conditions that they must be moved the first moment possible. That leaves completely out of the picture the large number of people who say they cannot get on with their mothers-in-law, cannot live in one or two rooms, and so on.

We feel that the whole matter ought to be properly organised so that when the Services leave these houses the council is informed, and nobody else. The council should be told that the houses are about to be relinquished, and it should be the council's job to get in touch with the owners and find out whether the owners mean to come back and settle there. Only the council knows who are the proper people to put into these houses. When this does not happen, and when large numbers of houses and hotels are left entirely empty, it is not unnatural that an element springs up in the town which says, "We must cut through red tape and do something to get these places."

The result is that we now have an organisation, which has had no small amount of publicity throughout the country, called the "Vigilantes." It was started by a gentleman who did the same thing after the last war, and found it a very interesting occupation then, and has now started up again in my Division. It has been followed all through the country by others doing the same thing, and frankly, that sort of thing is going to spread. I myself have had, within the last three or four days, soldiers coming to me and saying, "We do not intend to go back to the Forces, and to go out to the East, or wherever we are to be sent, until we can find a proper place for our wives and children to live in." One can go about the streets in Brighton and see these entirely empty places, and military people will tell you that there is no reason why those places should be retained, except that of red tape and the fact that they cannot get the schedules of dilapidations and damage. If they were handed over to the council that sort of thing would not take place.

Surely something can be arranged in order to get people into these places before the winter so that they may not become desperate. There are over 2,000 on the council's books, and these people, many of whom are Servicemen, have been encouraged, and rightly so, by the last Government, and I hope they will be by this Government, to believe that the council are the people to approach and to decide the priority of their claim. When they see these "vigilantes" going about and putting any old person they may happen to like better, into an empty house, and nobody touches them, they become angry. That is a very great understatement of these ex-Servicemen's feelings, especially if they are abroad. The council have the proper procedure for dealing with the situation and, with the exception of the War Office, there is no other Department with which they are in close touch. We hope that the various Ministries may work together better and make some decision and link up with the Council.

I suggest that it would greatly help if those responsible for the requisitioning of property in towns such as Brighton, would go occasionally to the local council and find out this council's needs and plans. There is no co-ordination and no recent decision on the part of the different Ministers as to the particular houses which are to be de-requisitioned and we do not know whether it is a question of schools or private houses receiving priority. There should be consultation with the local council, and we badly want co-ordination. There are other districts round about affected. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer): asked me to say that in his Division, which comes practically next to mine, there are a large number of vacant hotels. He feels, and I feel too, that to walk out of the hotels and hand them over to the owners so that a whole lot of better-off people could come down for a few weeks is not quite the thing to do at the moment, if, as we believe, the need for housing for the really very poor is so very great.

We suggest that either the councils should be allowed to put families temporarily into these hotels until proper housing could be found for them, or else the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry should cut through this red tape and let them evacuate so that they can be sub-let. It should be made possible for families to be moved in, when children are being born and brought up in single rooms where there are already three or four people. That is a solution that the Ministries might adopt in order to deal, temporarily at least, with this very serious problem; they would find at least bedding and a good room space and cutlery left over. The question of damages is, I believe, one of the reasons for the present hold-up. I wish that somehow that difficulty could be cut through. Consultation should take place with the local authorities to see what can be done to hurry up that matter. It is monstrous that our people should have to suffer during the coming autumn and winter because we cannot make up our minds how much damage the different Ministries have done and how much is going to be claimed.

I come to a question which was answered by the Under-Secretary of State for Air on Wednesday. He pointed out that the Dominions occupy most of the requisitioned R.A.F. property at the present moment in Brighton. The Secretary of State for War, in a supplementary answer given to me, reminded me that we have a considerable number of Dominion troops here for purposes of demobilisation, and that that has to be taken into consideration in some of these areas. There are many other areas, seaside areas—if the Dominions people must go to the seaside areas—such as Blackpool and elsewhere, places which have not suffered as we have, and do not need the rehabilitation we need for ourselves. It is near the end of the visit of these people to this country, and I hope and believe that they have been very happy on the South coast where the people have done their best to help. But it is to be hoped that somebody will look into the possibility of utilising a large number of camps that are being closed down in different parts of the country, or are being left almost entirely empty. Some of these Dominions men could surely go to these camps. I do not mean the South African returned prisoners of war They should be given the utmost comfort possible in order to-get put right before going home. I mean the Australian and New Zealand boys, who have been stationed in these camps often before. But there is no reason why thousands of the people who are living under miserable conditions should not be put into some of these hotels during the coming winter months, and there is no reason why those officers and men should not go to camps, many of which are American, with up-to-date heating and all comforts. Is there any reason why they should not be able to go there and leave these hotels, so that our returning men can join their wives and families and settle down in comfort?

I hope that it will be possible for the Minister of Health, or the Secretary of State for Air, or someone concerned to make himself responsible and that he will not wait too long. It is too late to go to Brighton races to-day and spend the week-end in seeing what the position is, but if the Minister of Health or Secre- tary of State for War would go next week he would be able to see the position—the long rows of empty houses with nobody in them, at Worthing, Brighton and elsewhere, all held by Service Departments, and nobody connected with them able to say what they are being held for.

Governor Of Algeciras (Visit To Gibraltar)

5.14 p.m.

I owe hon. Members an explanation for intervening briefly at this moment on a topic which is not in anyway related to the very interesting and important topic raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Flight-Lieutenant Teeling). The reason is simply that both his subject and mine are subjects which fall within the responsibility of the War Office and, therefore, it was thought more convenient both for the House and for my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office, upon whose maiden Adjournment on the wrong side of the counter I congratulate him very warmly indeed, that both subjects should be taken together and receive an omnibus reply.

The subject that I want to raise briefly is one about which I: asked an unstarred Question this morning as follows:
"To ask the Secretary of State for War, if he is aware that the Spanish Fascist Governor of Algeciras paid a ceremonial visit to Gibraltar on 11th August"—
by the way, I must apologise to the War Office: that is a slip; it should be the 10th August—
"at the invitation of the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, and that British troops were obliged to show him the respect customarily accorded to honoured guests; and if he will instruct the military authorities concerned that the offering of such courtesies to any representative of General Franco's régime is undesirable."
To which Question I received this afternoon, a somewhat dusty answer, as follows:
"Mr. Lawson: I have no information. The provisions of guards of honour for foreign generals and for distinguished personages is governed by King's Regulations, paragraph 961."
I can assure the Secretary of State, and my hon. Friend who is deputising for him to-day, that, as regards information, the facts as set out in my question were correct. It was based not only on information that reached me in, letters from constituents serving at Gibraltar, but also on newspaper cuttings, reports and photographs from the "Gibraltar Chronicle" of 11th August of the visit to Gibraltar of this Spanish General. So that if my hon. Friend institutes an investigation, as I hope he will, he will find that the facts as stated in the question are correct. The matter of opinion, of course, which now arises, and which I shall trouble the House with briefly, is whether such a visitor ought to be treated by British troops as a "distinguished personage," in the words of King's Regulations.

I would not have been raising this today, if it were not that this morning certain additional details came to my knowledge through the courtesy of the hon. Lady the Member for Rushcliffe (Mrs. Paton) who herself received a letter about this from a constituent of her own, a leading aircraftman serving at Gibraltar, which she was good enough to pass on to me, knowing that I had a question down about it on the Order Paper. In his letter this constituent of the hon. Lady refers to this visit by this Spaniard as
"an act that has infuriated the Forces stationed on the Rock of Gibraltar. I enclose a cutting from the 'Gibraltar Chronicle' showing a photograph of the reception given to General Franco's Fascist Governor of Algeciras. He was received with much ceremony, with guards of honour, and entertained by the Governor at Government House on his invitation. This is not the first time he has been over here."
The letter adds:
"On the last occasion he was provided with an escort of Ventura aircraft and naval launches as he crossed the Bay, and a salute of guns was fired as he landed. The Garrison band played the Spanish national anthem"—
and that, of course, is a Fascist National Anthem, an anthem glorifying a régime based on murder and tyranny—a régime put into power by the help of German Nazis and Italian Fascists. It is not the old, lively, jaunty Riego hymn which some of us remember so poignantly from the days of the Spanish War. It was a Fascist national anthem, and to my mind it seems almost as bad that the garrison band at Gibraltar should be required to play that as it would be to teach the massed bands of the Brigade of Guards to play the Horst Wessel Song. The letter goes on:
"Troops had to line both sides of the streets leading from the docks to Government House. We feel most strongly that anyone connected with Fascist Spain should not be entertained on British territory, by representatives appointed by His Majesty's Government, at the British taxpayers' expense."
I think that feeling will be shared by many hon. Members of this House, and I might remind my hon. Friend—he really needs no reminder of it from me—of the words used last Monday by the Foreign Secretary in this House when he said:
"…While we have no desire permanently to penalise the Spanish people, we cannot admit Spain into the club unless she accepts the basic principles of the club."
And again—
"…We shall take a favourable view if steps are taken by the Spanish people to change their régime."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 296]
words which I think were rather overlooked by some commentators on the right hon. Gentleman's speech: they are very important words in their implication.

It is perfectly fair, of course, to say that this particular reception took place some day before the Foreign Secretary made that statement, but I hope at least that, when my hon. Friend has had the matter investigated, he will be able to convey a sharp warning to those responsible and an instruction that such hospitality should not be extended in future to similar guests from Spain.

Before the hon. Gentleman concludes, may I ask him, just to have it clear in my own mind, whether his objection is to the fact that an official visit was arranged, or that when this official visit was arranged on the arrival of this Spanish officer he was received with the honours laid down in accordance with his rank?

I am always glad to try to help clear the mind of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I really object to the whole proceeding altogether, because I do not regard Franco's Spain as a friendly neutral country in any way; I regard it as a near-enemy neutral country.

I was just about to conclude when the hon. and gallant Gentleman interrupted me. I would like my hon. Friend at least to assure the House that he will send a fairly vigorous message to the Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Gibraltar, telling him that, however near neighbours they may be, it is at any rate unseemly—just after the end of a war which has resulted almost entirely, thank God, in the extirpation of Nazism and Fascism—that any representative of the British Government and the British people should be fraternising with Fascists.

5.23 p.m.

With the permission of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brighton (Flight-Licutenant Teeling) I hope I may be allowed to deal with the point which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg).

I am very sorry indeed that the hon. Member should have thought that my answer to him this morning, which was on behalf of my right hon. Friend, was a dusty answer. That seems to me to be a very inauspicious start to my period of office, but it was the best we could give under the circumstances. This matter has been raised at very short notice, and we have not had time to make investigations. All I would wish to say at this stage is that we shall do so, but whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will think it necessary to send such a vigorous instruction to the Governor of Gibraltar as my hon. Friend would desire I cannot say at the moment. I would prefer to consult him later. As to the expediency of such visits, of course it would not be proper for me to express an opinion. It is a matter of policy for wider circles in the Government than the War Office, and indeed I should not be at all surprised if my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would, have views on that matter.

If I may now proceed to the subject raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brighton, I want to say that I can sympathise with him, as representing a seaside constituency which is largely dependent on boarding houses and, indeed, all kinds of houses, for the livelihood of many of his constituents, in raising this matter to-day. All that I have to say to him in answer is that we in the War Office are acting with speed and expedition. It is not long since my right hon. Friend and I took over the reins at the War Office, and there have been many matters which have engaged our attention. This is one of them, and with it my right hon. Friend has considerable sympathy, and he has: asked me specially to keep an eye on it. I hope, in the course of my reply, to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and others who are interested, an assurance that they will have to wait only a fairly short time before this matter becomes one which will trouble them no longer. I also hope to give figures which will bear out that statement.

I do not think it would be helpful to have one Ministry supervising matters which concern all three Service Ministries, and which involve the Ministry of Health as well. The War Office has the largest number of properties under requisition, and in relation to the hon. and gallant Member's own constituency I think the Air Ministry have only five and the Admiralty one. However, no doubt my right hon. Friends will speak for their Departments if it is thought advisable. With regard to hotels, they present a slightly different problem from private houses. It might surprise the House to know that because of the difficulty of repairing large premises when they are derequisitioned we have had a request, made to the War Office, to continue requisitioning until the time when the building industry has expanded and more labour will be available to carry out the extensive repairs of such hotels, which are necessary in many cases, I am afraid, after occupation by the troops. The War Office has a large number of small houses on requisition, properties up to a capacity of 12 rooms and larger houses of 12 rooms and over, and there is a different method of dealing with the two types, as I hope to show. Undoubtedly one of the reasons for the delay in getting the properties back into the hands of their owners, or the local authorities, is the time necessary to make a schedule of their condition when the Army or the other Service Ministries leave. The owners of properties not only want their properties back quickly, in many cases they also want substantial compensation for the damage done by the military authorities during their occupation.

It is necessary, if we are to safeguard the interests of the taxpayer that the War Office, or the appropriate military Department, should know the extent of the damage which has been caused during occupation in order that they may be able to bargain later with the owners of those properties, and not pay out excessive amounts in compensation. That necessitates experienced and trained professional staff. Both in the Army and in civil life—because the owners of properties have to engage technical and professional men to bargain and argue for them—there is a shortage of such trained staff. We are urged to release as many of these trained men as possible, and we are endeavouring to do so, but the more we release them the greater the problem will be, when we come to de-requisition these properties, if we are to have adequate schedules of dilapidations prepared. But I can tell the House, even though this does not come within my purview but is within the province of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, that we are trying to devise a system whereby it will be possible to make not a detailed investigation at the end of each occupancy but a general survey which, we hope, will result in a speedy settlement of compensation as between the Government Departments—the War Office in this case—and civilian owners.

Perhaps I might now come to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's own constituency in which, of course, he is mainly interested, although this is a question which affects other towns in the country. There are towns in a worse position than Brighton, Liverpool for instance, whose housing requirements are even more urgent, where large areas have been blitzed. In comparison Brighton has not suffered the same amount of damage. Generally speaking, we cannot make any exceptions among towns and we do our best throughout the whole of the country to get on with the job of speeding de-requisitioning. The number of flats and houses now under requisition by the War Office in Brighton and Hove, is 475, of which the South African authorities hold 174. Those occupied by the South African authorities are not on our direct charge; they are on their charge, and I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member would be the first, on behalf of his constituency, to offer hospitality to our Dominion troops who have done such excellent service, who are so far away from home and do perhaps require the amenities for which Brighton is famous before they proceed on their long journey home.

I thought I made it quite clear that the South Africans are all returned prisoners of war, and that we are more than glad to do all we possibly can for them. But now they are practically all gone, and in the next week or fortnight will be completely gone. By that time I hope something will be done to give the properties back to us, and not to give them wholesale to other people.

The process of de-requisitioning will be speedy; indeed, it is now going on. But the hon. and gallant Member must understand that it is not a question simply of walking out and leaving properties to the owners or to the Ministry. For instance, in all these properties there are considerable fixtures and fittings belonging to the Services and they have to be removed. Our trouble is shortage of staff to do that. There are 301 flats and houses on the direct charge of the War Office, and of these all but a dozen have been evacuated by the Army and are in the process of being derequisitioned. I have given some figures of the process of de-requisitioning, but perhaps I may burden the House with a few more. The Quartering Commandant responsible for Brighton and Hove is also responsible for the whole of West Sussex. At the moment he is releasing an average of 66 houses a week, of which a considerable proportion are in Brighton. It is hoped to increase this number to 100 a week as soon as the necessary staff can be made available, but staff difficulties are likely to make it impossible to go beyond this figure.

Now may I deal with the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman as to co-operation between the Service Department and the local authority? Our method when we de-requisition houses is to notify the senior regional officer of the Ministry of Health, and that prevails throughout the country. We offer these houses, at any rate, houses of the smaller twelve-roomed type, first of all to the Ministry of Health regional officer, and within a period of three weeks, he has to make up his mind whether he wants any of these houses, and I assume that he consults the local authority. I think that is the best method, rather than that the Military Department should notify the local council direct, because it is a matter for the Ministry of Health. The War Office have no interest in the houses once they have de-requisitioned them and as the Ministry of Health has now been put in charge of housing throughout the country, I think it better we should notify the regional officer of the Ministry of Health as soon as we de-requisition. If, in that period of three weeks, the regional officer of the Ministry of Health notifies us that he does not desire certain houses, we thereupon hand them straight back to their owners from whom we requisitioned. I think that would commend itself to most hon. Members. If the local authority want to-take any further action once the houses are in possession of the original owners, then it is up to them. We have no further Interest.

Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that the local regional authorities actually do contact the local council, because so far as I am aware, until a week or two ago, they had not done so in the case of the Brighton Council?

I do not think I should be called upon to supervise that matter. That is a question which the hon. and gallant Gentleman should address to the Minister of Health because he is responsible for his local officers and not the War Office. I can assure him that that official is responsible for notifying the local authority, and all I can say is that I hope he does it.

In the case of larger houses of over 12 room capacity, we notify the Ministry of Works, and they are responsible for dealing with these houses once we hand them over to them. I will give a few more figures which I hope will convince the House that we are getting a move on at the War Office. On 30th January this year there were 24,000 odd houses under requisition by the War Office throughout the country. There are now 14,000. The figures for July are very significant. During July, we de-requisitioned 3,319 small houses and flats and 64 schools and 1,765 other properties. When one compares that with the numbers de-requisitioned in the six months between 1st January and 30th June, one finds that during July we de-requisitioned approximately 50 per cent. of the number derequisitioned in the first six months of this year. I hope, therefore, the House will agree that the War Office have done their best to speed up this matter.

Is there any possibility before de-requisitioning of his getting in touch with the local councils to find out what they most need? One hears of a vast number of houses being de-requisitioned but on what basis is it being done? Is he working in with the local needs?

I think we must keep to what the Army would call "the drill." We are in close contact with the regional officer of the Ministry of Health, but it is his job to keep in touch with the local authority and not ours. Many of the owners of these properties are very closely in touch with us, because they do not let us forget that these properties belong to them, and they want them back. I hope I have given the House information which will convince them that the War Office are now going full steam ahead in relation to this matter.

5.40 p.m.

I would like to add a word on R.A.F. properties in Brighton. These properties are occupied by the Dominion Air Force on their way home. He suggests that some of the personnel might be moved to R.A.F. camps. That is a suggestion which we would be rather reluctant to carry out. They are our guests in the Dominion R.A.F., and they have done us remarkably well. They are on their way home, and they will not, in most cases, be here very much longer. What is prolonging the time factor is shipping, and we do not know exactly how long that position will last. At the end of their stay in this country I think that it would be rather difficult to move them out of the undoubtedly admirable accommodation which they have in Brighton to the comparative austerity of R.A.F. camps. We hope that the shipping position will be good enough to enable us to keep them where they are during the remaining short period of their stay in this country and that this property will be available in the not too distant future.

Poland

I wish to raise the question of the conditions prevailing in Poland, with particular reference to the return of the Poles to Poland, the Provisional Govern- ment, and the forthcoming elections in that country. Everyone must be in absolute agreement as to the urgent necessity of the Poles returning to Poland as soon as possible. I would preface my remarks by stating emphatically that all Poles are most anxious to return to their country. There is no nation which is so nationally-minded as the Poles; but they are most reluctant to return so long as the prevailing conditions in Poland continue. We must be realists in this matter, and view the conditions in Poland from the point of view of the Poles themselves. They have firmly fixed in their minds, and for a very good reason, that those who were in political disagreement with the Lublin Committee, almost entirely Communistic, in the setting up of which the Polish nation had no say at all, and which was imposed on Poland by Russia, and also those who are in political disagreement with the present Government, would if they returned to Poland put their liberty in jeopardy.

In regard to the question of their liberty being in jeopardy, may I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in the first public speech which was made by Mr. Mikolajczyk in Warsaw at the end of June of this year he appealed to the Poles who were still hiding in large numbers in the forests of Poland to come out of hiding? The mere fact that that appeal had to be made to Poles hiding in the forests of Poland is, in my opinion, a positive indication of the fear which the Poles in Poland have to-day for their personal liberty from arrest. Also there is the fact that in the minds of Poles there is no freedom of speech in Poland, no freedom of the Press, the whole of the radio is under Government control. They also feel that it is impossible under existing conditions in Poland for the free, untramelled and democratic elections with a secret ballot which have been promised and which we are pledged to see carried out. The Russian Army and the N.K.V.D. are all over Poland to-day, the latter with their well-known method of operation. They have not been withdrawn. Every hon. Member will have heard with great satisfaction the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary in the Debate on foreign affairs, when he told the House of the assurance which had been given to him at Potsdam that the Russian Army would be withdrawn—the withdrawal of the N.K.V.D. had not yet been decided upon—that there would be freedom for the Press of the world to go to Poland and issue uncensored news, freedom of election, etc.

These assurances were all very much to the good. One can only hope that the assurances, by word of mouth will be carried out by the Polish Provisional Government by action. The withdrawal of the N.K.V.D., the Russian secret police, is of imperative importance. That has not yet been decided. Can any date be given as to when the withdrawal of the Russian armies and the N.K.V.D., with the exception, of course, of the Russian forces necessary to safeguard their communications with their armies of occupation, will be complete? I repeat, it is imperative for the Poles to return to Poland, but surely it is equally imperative that the action of the Provisional Government shall be such as will remove from the minds of the Poles these fears they have as regards their personal liberty if they do return, that there will be real freedom for the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, etc., the absence of which makes them so very reluctant to return to Poland at the present time.

The Lublin Committee, as is well known, was set up by Russia in order that agreement should be given by a presumably Polish body to the Western frontier of Russia and the Eastern frontier of Poland being the Curzon Line. This Committee was not recognised by us because it was not representative of the Polish nation, as was so clearly stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who was then Foreign Secretary, during the Debate on the Crimea Conference. He said:
"We have in no sense recognised the Lublin Committee, and, may I add, we have no intention of recognising the Lublin Committee. We do not regard it as representative of Poland at all. When my right hon. Friend and I met the representatives of this Committee in Moscow, I must say they did not make a. favourable impression upon us."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1945; Vol. 408, c. 1669.]
I would draw attention to the fact that all those members of the Lublin Committee who were condemned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington are all members of the Provisional Government to-day and they all hold the highest offices of State in that Government, including the present presi- dent of Poland, Mr. Bierut, and the present Prime Minister, Mr. Mokawski. It is well known, it cannot possibly be disputed, and that under the Lublin Committee there was in Poland a reign of terror and oppression against those who did not agree with their Communist views. Many of the officers and men of the underground movement, prominent members of the Polish political parties, were either arrested, deported to Russia, or disappeared without trial. Some were shot.

The Crimea Conference laid down on 12th February this year that a Polish Government was to be set up which would be representative of political parties in Poland, by adding additional members to the existing Lublin Committee. It was not, however, until June that four new members were added, one of whom was Mr. Mikolajczyk. I submit that the composition of this Provisional Government, by the addition of four new members to the Lublin Committee, which was entirely Communist, is not and cannot materially affect the Communist policy and power of the Lublin Committee, whose members to-day hold all the principal offices in the Provisional Government, and by their majority of 16 to four can continue the policy they carried out in the Lublin Committee. I would especially draw the attention of the House to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, who was then Foreign Secretary, during the Debate on 28th February, when he said that we would not recognise a Government which we did not think representative, and that the addition of one or two Ministers would not meet our views. But only four Ministers have been added to the Lublin Committee, so that is exactly what has been done.

However on that fateful day of 6th July this year, both our Government and that of the United States of America recognised the Provisional Government of Poland, consisting as it did of the old Lublin Committee with the addition of only four new members. The parties represented in this Government are, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, the Polish Workers' Party, the Communist Party, the Peasant Party, the Socialist Party and the Christian Workers' Party. It will be noticed that the National Party, a right wing Party, and one of the main parties in the country, whose members formed part of that memorable underground movement who by their devastating activities against the Germans did so much to assist the Russian armies in defeating Germany in the face of great difficulties, peril and sacrifice—that party is now not represented at all. In fact, it is no longer recognised or allowed to exist—a most significant omission, as it is one of the main political parties in Poland. The leaders of the parties which are now represented in the National Government are not the real leaders of the political parties in Poland. Not at all; they are either Communists or are under Communist control. Nobody can deny that. They are little known in Poland; they have not got the confidence of the people of Poland, they are not in sympathy with the political views of the parties they are supposed to represent, but are pure camouflage and a fraud, with the exception, of course, of the Polish Workers' Party, which is the Communist Party.

The real leaders of the four main political parties in Poland—the Peasant Party, the Socialist Party, the National Party and the Christian Workers'Party—all formed the underground movement. Their leaders, 16 of them, were induced to go to Warsaw under a safe conduct granted by the Russian authorities. They went to Warsaw in March, 1945, in order to come to some agreement with regard to their taking part in the Provisional Government of that country, but it will be remembered what their fate was. For a long time, nobody knew what had happened, and it was not until some six weeks later that Mr. Molotov, the Russian Foreign Secretary, blurted out at San Francisco the fact that the 16 leaders of the main political parties in Poland had been arrested and were to be put on trial for diversionary activities against the Red Army. That was after a safe conduct which had been guaranteed to them by the Russian authorities.

Has the hon. and gallant Member any criticism to offer of the conduct of that trial?

I am coming to the conduct of the trial. These leaders were brought to Moscow. The trial lasted three days, and not one single witness was called for the defence. They were all condemned to terms of imprisonment, and are still in prison. These are the leaders of the main political parties in Poland—still in prison in Russia. They have, in consequence, been most efficiently and most effectively liquidated from the political arena in Poland and cannot possibly, unless they are released, take part in the forthcoming election in that country. It is not difficult to realise the deplorable effect which this information has had on the minds of the Poles.

At the trial, did not the prisoners plead guilty to the charges made against them?

They were charged with all sorts of heinous crimes—sabotage, murder and so on—which they all emphatically denied. The charges which they admitted—they were all taken in the Western part of Poland—were that, when the Germans were driven back, they did not declare themselves, and they also admitted that they had maintained wireless communication with the Government in this country. The reason why they did not come out into the open and declare themselves was that, when the Russians occupied the Eastern part of Poland, the leaders of the underground movement in that part of the country declared themselves, much to their detriment, because they were dealt with by being sent into concentration camps or being deported and so on. They were persecuted, and, with that example in their minds, these people decided that, when the Russian Armies overran the part of Poland where they were, it would not be safe for them to declare themselves, or they also would have been arrested, deported and so on.

At a Press Conference in San Francisco on 10th May, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, who was then Foreign Secretary, said this:
"I must emphasise that the list of 16 Poles reported as having disappeared, and about whom we inquired of the Soviet Government more than a month ago, included nearly all the leading figures of the Polish underground movement. These men maintained an excellent record of resistance against the Germans throughout the wax. Four of them are Ministers of the Polish Governments of Sikorski and Mikolajczyk, as well as of the present Government. One of them was President of the Underground National Council and the rest were prominent leaders of the principal democratic parties in Poland. Most of these men were just the type who should, in our view, have been consulted about the new National Government in Poland if such a Government was to be truly representative of Polish democratic life in accordance with the Crimea decision."
These men accepted the Russian invitation with that purpose in mind, and yet were arrested while under a safe conduct and are now in prison in Russia. After this declaration by the then Foreign Secretary, I do not consider that I have in any way exaggerated the seriousness of their elimination from the political arena in Poland, and I will also say that, if these men, the real leaders of the main political parties in Poland, are not released and able to take their part in the forthcoming election, then that election will be disastrous for Poland and for the future of that country. The so-called leaders of the political parties now in this Provisional Government, who have replaced the real and genuine leaders, are not in sympathy with the policies of the parties they are supposed to represent. They are Communists, or are under Communist control. They have not got the confidence of the parties or of the people whom they are supposed to represent.

It may reasonably be assumed that these pseudo leaders of these political parties will, in addition to deciding the policy and the programme of those parties, also choose the candidates to stand for election. I am informed that the policies and programmes which had been issued are all almost identical. What else can you expect? I ask, in all seriousness, under the conditions which I have mentioned, what are the chances of a free, untrammelled election as we understand it? What are the chances of these people opposing the Communist régime at this forthcoming election? Is is not more than probable that the election which will take place under these conditions will resolve itself into becoming a one-party election, camouflaged under the different party names—a pure farce and a fraud?

The Foreign Secretary, in his speech during the Debate on foreign affairs, referred to the situation in Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. He stated that the Governments which had been set up do not in our opinion represent the majority of the people, and the impression we get from recent developments is that one kind of totalitarianism is being replaced by another. Speaking of Bulgaria, he stated that the electoral law in accordance with which the elections will take place is not consistent with the principles of liberty. He went on to say that we shall not, therefore, be able to regard as representative any Government resulting from such elections. In all seriousness I would ask the Under-Secretary whether he will take the same attitude to the prevailing conditions in Poland, and whether he will warn the Provisional Government in the same clear, unequivocal and definite terms as he used towards Bulgaria? I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary on his speech throughout, with which we on this side of the House were so much in agreement. I ask him in all fairness to apply the same principles to Poland as he has done to those other countries in the Balkans.

There is the question of, I think, 2,000,000 Poles outside Poland, both Service men and civilians, and with regard to their return the assurance was given to the Foreign Secretary when he was at Potsdam that they will be acccorded personal rights and rights of property on the same basis as Polish citizens in Poland. I would remind the Under-Secretary of the statement I made with regard to the Poles who were hiding in Poland. It is not a reassuring statement in view of the actual situation of those Poles in Poland, who until recently have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, deportation, requisitioning of property, etc. It is true that there is less actual political persecution to-day than there was in the days of the Lublin Committee, but in view of what has happened before the Poles abroad are anxious to know whether this change is a definite change for the better or whether it is a temporary lull to lure the Poles returning to Poland into a trap.

We must view this from the Polish point of view. It is not in the least likely that the Poles can eradicate from their minds the fate of the 16 leaders of their main political parties who had a safe conduct at the time the Lublin Committee was supposed to be governing Poland, and are now in prison. They also want to be assured as to their safety bearing in mind their political views and their past activities; and especially I would mention the members of the home Army, the underground movement and the staff of the Polish Government in London. Would it be safe for General Bor, as the Com- mander-in-Chief of the Polish Home Army and leader of the Warsaw rising, to return to Poland? Will it be safe for Mr. Arciszewski, that great Socialist leader, to return to Poland? What I have said to the House—and the facts cannot be disputed—is the background against which the Poles view and weigh up the advisability of their return to Poland with safety and the chances of a free, untramelled election on democratic lines, which is the only foundation for their future liberty and the prosperity of their country.

There are two points that worry me about what has been said. The first concerns the figures which have been mentioned. Could I ask what authority the hon. and gallant Gentleman has for his figures, particularly the figure of 2,000,000 Poles? The second point is: Would he be kind enough to tell the House the last occasion on which Poland had a free and untramelled election?

With regard to the first question, I do not mind at all as to the actual numbers. There is a great number. I may be wrong in the number of 2,000,000. I do not mind. What does it matter? There are over 500,000 in Field-Marshal Montgomery's Army zone. There is a great number in this country and in other parts. The point is not whether 2,000,000 is the right figure or not. That is not really material. It is well known that there is a great number of Poles outside Poland who want to return. The question of what free elections they have had has nothing to do with it. Does the hon. Gentleman not support the policy of free elections in all these countries under democratic conditions? Will he answer me?

Yes, of course. We in this House are all in favour of that, but you cannot suddenly introduce in a State like Poland free, untrammelled elections on the lines which we have enjoyed in this country for so long.

That is our aim and object in all these countries, and we shall do our best to see it is carried out. That is my point, and I am glad the hon. Gentleman agrees. It is not much good the Foreign Secretary urging the Poles outside Poland to return there under pre- sent conditions merely on assurances which are given by the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government must by definite action on its part gain the confidence of the Poles outside Poland before they will return. I apologise to the House for being so long, but I feel very keenly on this matter.

In addition to the withdrawal of the Russian Army and of the secret police it would be of immense help in the new elections in shaping the future destiny of Poland if certain conditions were fulfilled. The Foreign Secretary, in his excellent speech on foreign affairs, said that the Government would welcome an amnesty in Greece at the earliest possible moment. I ask the Under-Secretary of State whether that does not apply also to Poland, and if not, why not? Why only Greece; why not Poland as well? In applying it to Poland the object would be, of course, that all those who have been imprisoned or denied the right to political activities in Poland because of their political views would be set free, and allowed to resume their role and place in the political life of the nation in their respective parties, in the forthcoming election. I also ask that the leaders of the political parties at present imprisoned in Russia should be set free and allowed to play their part. How are you to have real elections when the leaders of the parties are imprisoned in another country? I ask that all Poles deported for their political views should also be set free and allowed to return to Poland to take their part in its life.

There must be freedom of association, speech, meeting, etc., which are absolutely essential before the election takes place, in order that the leaders of the political parties may expound their views. We found it most necessary in this country. One of their chief objections to the General Election here put forward by 'the Socialist Party was that it was being rushed upon them. If this freedom of speech, meetings and so on are not allowed in Poland there will be no preparation at all for the election and the whole thing will be a farce. I ask the Under-Secretary whether he can tell us when these elections will take place. I would also ask that they should take place, as in the case of Greece, under international supervision. Why should there be international supervision only in Greece? Why not in Poland? I know that Russia has refused to take part in the international supervision in Greece, bat I ask that they should take part in it in Poland, together with representatives of other countries.

Would the hon. and gallant Member apply the same principle of international supervision of elections to Spain?

I am not dealing with Spain at all, but with Poland. During the war we have not had a more faithful ally than the Polish people, and among her immense population not one Quisling was to be found to assist the enemy. That is a marvellous record. They have fought side by side with us on the land, the sea and in the air, and have shown Unfailing courage and tenacity throughout the war. Poland has done much to bring about the defeat of Germany. We have won the war, but the Poles say that they have lost it. We owe Poland a great debt. Surely it is our obligation to Poland to see to it that the sovereignty, independence and freedom of Poland are assured by democratic means in that country, in fulfilment of our pledges and our principles and as an earnest of our gratitude to her heroic people. Therefore, I ask, in conclusion and with confidence, that our Government will take all the steps at their disposal to bring about the urgently-needed and most necessary changes in the conditions prevailing in Poland at the present time.

6.22 p.m.

I propose to do little more than dot the i's and cross the t's of the speech to which we have just listened. I would especially stress the importance of the return of Poles outside Poland to their country, and I would repeat what my hon. and gallant Friend has said about there being a strong desire in all sections of Poles that that should happen. There is an old proverb that an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory, and what are the theory and the practice of the attitude towards Poland of the Lublin Committee? The composition of the Lublin Committee has been described in detail. There are now 21 as against 16 original members, and the additions are perfectly insignificant, with one exception, that of M. Mikolajczyk, who is the only really representative leader among the 21 members. What has been the action of the Lublin Committee, not many years ago but in this year? The Lublin Committee issued an official announcement, given in the "Daily Telegraph" of 20th January, 1945, declaring the necessity for extirpating the

"traitors, bandits, incorrigible malefactors and brawlers of the Home Army,"
and followed this with a decree calling for the
"round up of irreconcilable members of the Polish Home Army and followers of the London Government."
With that pronouncement it was obvious that no members or supporters of the Polish Government recognised by the Western Allies could return to their country without grave risk to their lives and liberty. I have come across an interesting article in the "Daily Herald" by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. M. Foot). This paper is not exactly regarded as being prejudiced for Poland, but it is a fair and, indeed, generous article. I should like to read an extract because hon. Members opposite will naturally pay more attention to a Member of their own party than to any one on this side. Writing in the "Daily Herald" on 16th February, 1945, three weeks after the decree I have quoted, the hon. Member, speaking of the Lublin Government, said:
"Will they be prepared to call off the threats against members of the Polish Home Army who were resisting the Germans long before they appeared on the scene? Will the subsequent elections really be free, or will the Lublin representatives seek to maintain unanimity of view hitherto prevailing under their auspices?"
He sums up the position as follows:
"It appears to mean that all the Poles in London, and some of them have supported the war against Nazi Germany long before the 'Daily Worker' and risked death for their, faith, are to be excluded."
He goes on with this pregnant sentence:
"If we are not prepared to ensure that the Lublin Government genuinely seeks the partnership of other Poles and organises genuine elections, the Yalta agreement will appear as one of the grossest fakes in history."

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the custom in the House that if he quotes from something written or spoken outside the House by a Member, the Member should be notified so that he can foe here to reply to any criticism that may be made?

I wrote to the hon. Member last night, and he must have had the letter this morning. The article goes on:

"It would have been better if all these territorial issues had been postponed until they could have been settled sanely and quietly by the free vote of the people. That is the true Socialist way to peace."
It is interesting to observe that Field-Marshal Alexander, in a recent public statement, made some similar suggestions with regard to the position of Yugoslavia. He referred to the attempt by the Yugoslavia Government to make irresponsible annexations during the war, and he said:
"Our policy, as has been publicly proclaimed, is that territorial changes should be made only after thorough study and full consultation and deliberation by the various governments concerned."
No such consultation has been afforded the Polish Government at any time.
"It is to prevent such actions that we have been fighting this war. We have agreed to work together to seek an orderly and just solution of the territorial problems. This is just one of the cardinal principles for which the peoples of the United Nations have made their tremendous sacrifices for which we have all fought."
That territorial adjustment is another aspect of the Polish question in which unfair discrimination has been made.

The next point I want to stress is what is necessary before the Poles can have any confidence in returning to Poland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has laid down two requirements—to remove the secret police and to reduce the Red Army to proportions which make it impossible for them to interfere with elections, as they have been accustomed to do.

I have it on good authority that the way in which elections have been conducted in Poland is as follows. There is a great army of Commissars distributed in proportion of one to 18 voters, and the Commissars are very eager and efficient in making the voters vote as they would wish them to do. If a voter does not vote, he is liquidated or otherwise disposed of, and the result of the arrangement is that it is usual to report that the candidates have been elected by 100 per cent. of the votes. The treatment of the delegation that went to Poland is surely a very salient and incontestable obstacle. It is an instance of a breach of international law and order. When a delegation has received a safe conduct and is imprisoned on arrival in the country, it is something of which to take notice. What was the attitude of the Labour Party? An interesting article appeared in the "Tribune," which, I understand, is edited by two distinguished members of the Government. Writing on 11th May, some little time after the delegation left, the "Tribune" considered the position of the Polish delegation which went to Poland with the full approval and, indeed, with the prompting of the British Government, who revealed the names of the chief leaders of the Polish resistance movement to the Russian Government, and so allowed them to make a selection which subsequently enabled them to destroy the resistance movement. It said:
"By transmitting the names of the Polish leaders to the Soviet authorities the British and American Governments have assumed co-responsibility for their personal safety. Moreover, the British Labour Party, too, advised the Poles to come into the open with the purpose of establishing contact and starting negotiations with the Russians. British Labour is also, therefore, co-responsible for what happens to some at least of the arrested Polish Leaders."
Comment has been made on the fact that the defendants, if you can call them such in the trials in Moscow, if you can call them trials, admitted their guilt. Hon. Members must remember the series of State trials which took place in Moscow from 1931 to 1936. They all followed a similar pattern. They are obviously not trials in the sense in which we have trials, but State functions carefully arranged; and the fact that every accused person admits the crimes of which he is accused, and invents some for himself, surely shows up the travesty of justice which these trials really are. With regard to the reality of the opposition to the return to Poland of the Polish communities outside that country, I have details here of a Congress of Polish emigrants in France. Something like 600,000 members were concerned in. the matter, composed of factory workers and the general middle and working classes. They passed a unanimous resolution that they would have nothing whatever to do with the Lublin Government, that they would never be ruled by the Lublin Government, and expressing their complete loyalty to the Polish Government in London.

Another very large section of Poles abroad—200,000—is the Polish army, which has made the same protestations of loyalty. I have here a list of Polish communities abroad, including those of the United States, France, Australia, Iran, Argentina and several others, and from all those communities of Poles outside Poland just the same story comes of mistrust of the Lublin Government. May I again point out what has been allotted to Poland in the way of a final settlement? I quote from the publication of a celebrated American author:
"Poland, our ally, has been treated worse than our enemy, Germany. Germany is to be administered by the four great Powers, Poland is to be administered solely by Soviet Russia."
That is the final fate of Poland, which I think we should all regard as being wholly undesirable. I do not propose to detain the House any longer, but I hope these additions to my hon. and gallant Friend's speech will reinforce its argument.

6.37 p.m.

I should like to comment on a few of the points raised by the two previous speakers. First of all, if I may assist the hon. and gallant Member for Paddington, South (Vice-Admiral Taylor) the name of the former Polish Premier is Mikolajczyk.

I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman's information about Poland is not much better than his pronunciation. When he speaks in the terms he did speak about the present leaders of Poland, I wonder why he overlooked the fact that one of those leaders is precisely Mr. Mikolajczyk.

What office does he hold, and what powers, in the Provisional Government of Poland?

He could have been Premier of Poland, and the Lublin Committee were anxious that he should be Premier when they offered him the job on his first visit to Moscow with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The reason why he could not accept was because the London régime, encouraged in its foolish intransigeance by certain sections in this country, refused to accept the Curzon Line and therefore made it impossible for him to accept.

My question was, what post does he occupy in the Provisional Government in Poland to-day?

He is, for all practical purposes, Deputy-Premier, for he represents one of the largest parties, the Peasant Party, and he occupies that position in a way which commands-respect.

The underground movement was divided into two parts. The smaller part, a quite small part, was almost purely Fascist, and we need say no more about it because it was admittedly a Fascist movement. The greater part of the underground movement, however, on orders from the London Government in exile, treated the Russians as the enemy as much as the Germans. When Bor-Komokowski, for instance, led the revolt in Poland, his wireless stations gave out that they were not only fighting for Warsaw but for Lwow and Vilno, two towns in the part of Eastern Poland already passed over to the Soviet Union.

Will the hon. Member give me the foundation of fact for his statement?

I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that he was heard in silence for 44 minutes, and that he might now allow other hon. Members to speak.

I have no objection, Sir, to the hon. and gallant Member's question. The evidence came out in the trial in Moscow of the general who was the leader of the underground movement. I am sorry I have forgotten his name at the moment. He was arrested at the same time as the 16, although he was not one of the 16. The evidence which came out then made it quite clear that the instructions he had had from the Polish Government in London were instructions which practically compelled him to treat the Russians invading those parts of Poland occupied by Germany as enemies, and it showed also that there had been acts of sabotage, the blowing-up of trains and shooting of Russian soldiers on the lines of communication. The Russians, needless to say, got extremely tough when that happened, as anybody would have done in similar circumstances. As for the National Democrats, who are described as one of the great parties of Poland, they used to be one of the great parties, but they were the party of big business and extreme reaction, with a semi-Fascist section who had been thoroughly mixed up with the pre-war dictatorship in Poland—the Colonel Beck régime.

What has happened in Poland has been a revolution, as well as a war. The Poles have settled accounts with the members of the old régime and with the party that was closely associated with it. The idea of trying to restore those parties and groups simply ignores the fact of the revolution. It is as if, after the Russian revolution, when the Bolsheviks were in charge, the suggestion had been made that the White generals and troops who had fought on our side should be returned to Russia to take part in the elections there. What has happened in Poland is something which is absolutely different from a general election in this country and from the conduct of a war in this country. There has been a revolution in Poland and the Poles who do not desire to return to Poland—I am very glad to know that they have been offered the chance of British citizenship, or will be helped in some other way—happen to be adherents of the old régime, the régime of the landowners and big business. They do not want to go back because there is no room for them in the Poland of the revolution.

May I ask the hon. Member whether it is not curious that out of 100,000 Poles who fought on the Allied side in Italy, some of whom went through the siege of Tobruk, 90,000—that is 90 per cent.—will not return to Poland?

I question the hon. and gallant Member's figures. I believe the position is that at the present moment the representatives of the Provisional Polish Government are ascertaining which Poles wish to go back. No figure is at present available for the number of those who refuse to go back; the position is being investigated. It is by no means true to say that there are any figures which bring out that a large proportion of the Poles abroad have made up their minds not to return. Some have and some have not. In conclusion, I believe that the touching solicitude for democracy displayed by some of the hon. Members on the other side is not unconnected with their desire to stir up trouble between us and the Soviet Union.

6.45 p.m.

I should like to take this opportunity, as did my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), to congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the very brilliant speech that he made the other night. It was a very fair, moderate, impartial statement which has received the approval of the whole world. If I have eventually to comment upon that statement it will be with due deference and only because I wish to elicit further information on a very important subject.

I cannot help thinking that the justification for the representation of universities in this House is that the university Members are not tied to party. They are not "Yes-men." They try to form an independent and objective opinion on the subjects which come before the House. I hope that this evening I shall say nothing which would in any way embarrass the Government. On the contrary, I shall try to treat the subject in a very uncontroversial fashion, just as if I were lecturing to students in my own university. The important point on which I wish to have elucidation is the question of the Western frontier of Poland which has been proposed at the Potsdam Conference. I am sorry to say that no White Paper giving the statement of that Conference has yet appeared, but I have here the full report given in "The Times" of 3rd August. This is the point:
"The three heads of Government agree that, pending the final determination of Poland's western frontier, the former German territories east of a line running from the Baltic Sea immediately west of Swinemünde, and thence along the Oder River to the confluence of the western Neisse River and along the western Neisse to the Czechoslovak frontier, including that portion of East Prussia not placed under the administration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics."
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs devoted a large portion of his speech to dealing with the territory between the Western Neisse, which I prefer to call by the name with which I am most familiar, the Lusatian Neisse, and the Eastern Neisse, which we call the Silesian Neisse. If I want enlightenment on any question, I take up the "Daily Herald"; and in the "Daily Herald" of to-day there is a very interesting—I do not know whether it is inspired or not—note upon this question:
"A misunderstanding about two rivers of the same name led to an additional 10,000 square miles of former German territory, with 3,000,000 inhabitants, being handed over to Polish administration. In his speech on 20th August, where he dealt with Germany's eastern frontiers, Mr. Bevin said there had been agreement at least by inference that the Poles should go to the Oder and the eastern Neisse. The inference to which Mr. Bevin referred apparently goes back to a misunderstanding between Stalin on the one hand and Churchill and the late President Rooseveit on the other at Teheran. There it was agreed that the Poles should have the former German territory up to the Oder and the Neisse. But there are two rivers Neisse. Churchill and Roosevelt understood the arrangement to mean the eastern Neisse; Stalin the western Neisse. The Russian view prevailed, with the result shown on the accompanying map."
That is the very interesting commentary given by the "Daily Herald" on this most important question. I must apologise if at this late hour I make a very dull speech, but I have gone very carefully into this question and I am sorry to say that I am impelled, if I want to elucidate the matter, to give the House some figures. The question of the statistics of the population is an extremely difficult one, because all the recent German censuses are not to be relied upon in the very least. If we want to go back to a really impartial census when we are dealing with the population of Germany, we must go back to the last census before the Great War, the census of 1910.

The question of the Polish Western frontier resolves itself into three distinct parts. According to the Warsaw radio, the area now taken over by Poland in the West has 8,600,000 inhabitants, but I feel that those figures are an exaggeration. In making my calculations I can only find that the population amounts to rather less probably than 8,000,000. These three sections are as follow: There is East Prussia, with a population of 2,200,000. The district which has been provisionally allocated to Russia, including Koenigsberg, contains 700,000 people, and the area allotted to Poland, the Polish-speaking districts, the Masurian districts—the districts which we have known so long in history as the Allenstein and Ermeland districts—which are to be handed over to Poland, contain a population of 1,500,000. Of those it can be stated that the actual Polish-speaking population is somewhere between 400,000 and 700,000. It is impossible to give precise figures.

The second great division of this territory is obviously the province of Silesia. Under the provisional agreement the whole of Silesia is being handed over to Poland. We find that in Upper Silesia the population is 1,700,000, and this includes at least 700,000 or 800,000 Poles. Lastly, there is the third great division, Pomerania, of which it is proposed to hand over to the Poles the whole country as far as Swinemünde and the mouth of the Oder, which embraces a population of 1,500,000. If we take this immense district, we find that the Polish-speaking population is, in East Prussia, between 400,000 and 700,000, and in Silesia between 700,000 and 800,000; whereas with regard to Pomerania all the claim that has ever been made by the Poles is for the Eastern district. No Pole that I have ever heard of, no Polish historian, no Polish statesman, has ever claimed a line West of the town of Kolberg on the Baltic. If you strike a line between Kolberg and Kreutz you find roughly on the East of that line the population claimed by Poland.

All that the Poles in 1919 and now have ever claimed is that the genuine Poles in these districts should be incorporated in Poland. This would mean, then, the Southern half of East Prussia, the Eastern part of Eastern Pomerania, which I have just described, and the whole of the Upper Silesia district. The right hon. Gentleman the former Secretary of State said that the Poles were going too far to the West. It is not the Poles who have put forward any such claim whatsoever. The Poles have never: asked that they should be given the frontier of the Oder, much less the frontier of the Western or Lusatian Neisse. It looks no doubt on the map a very clear frontier. You follow the line of the Oder from the mouth at Swinemünde up to Frankfurt and you come to a sudden turn of the Oder to the East, and then you follow its confluent the so-called Lusatian Neisse until it joins the Czechoslovakian frontier. It seems on the map to be a very definite frontier, but it is infinitely in excess of any claim made by the Poles. All that the Poles are demanding is that the purely Polish population should be returned to them in these Polish districts which I have enumerated. They are asking for the return to Poland of 1,500,000 Poles.

What has been put forward as the reason for this change of border towards the West? It is that the Poles should be given compensation for the large genuine Polish population amounting, in my calculation, to 5,000,000, which it is proposed that they should lose on the Eastern side of the Curzon line. You are, therefore, only proposing to give them compensation—I am not speaking of territory but of human souls—of 1,500,000 for the 5,000,000 which you are determined to take away from them. Therefore, I would submit to the House that this question of compensation is not one that can be treated in this fashion. It is really a totally inadequate compensation, and it is one that the Poles feel is unjust to them. You cannot transfer populations in the way that you transfer cattle. I was talking at tea-time to my hon. Friend the hon. Baronet the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) and I was explaining to him the situation, and he used a very apt comparison. He said, "It is just as if you are: asked to sacrifice Northern Ireland, and receive Eire in compensation." I feel strongly that the whole matter requires the most careful consideration and it is a mistake to allow it to be thought in this country that the Poles have made any such claim for the extension of territory such as has been mentioned in the report here of the Potsdam Conference. The claim has not come from the Poles and the Poles should not be reproached with megalomania or with the desire to munch what they cannot chew. It is nothing of the kind. If you look through all the Polish historians no such claim has ever been made.

But the Poles feel very strongly the loss of those 5,000,000 to the East of the so-called Curzon line. "The Times," when this question was being debated, had a leading article in which they stated, with regard to Galicia, that it was very right and proper that this territory should be restored to Russia. I immediately wrote a letter in reply and I will pay tribute to "The Times"—they had the fairness to insert my letter. I pointed out that you cannot restore territory to Russia which Russia has never had. From 1340 onwards this territory has never been in Russian possession. It was Polish down to the first partition of 1772, when part of it was transferred in that very cruel division of Poland to Austria and the rest of it was transferred at the time of the third partition of 1795. It remained Austrian right down to the reconstitution of the ancient Polish State after the last war.

You therefore cannot talk about restoring to Russia territory which has never in all history belonged to her. In the same way it is proposed in this Agreement to transfer KÖnigsberg to Russia. I put a question last Session to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and: asked on what ethnological and historical grounds were they proposing to hand over KÖnigsberg to Russia. Russia has never in all history possessed it. The Russian population in KÖnigsberg is infinitesimally small and I can only assume—and it is a pure assumption on my part—that the real reason is thatKÖnigsberg strategically commands the whole of the bay of Danzig and that if you are going to hand over KÖnigsberg to Russia it means that you are also going to hand over to her the three independent Baltic States of Latvia, Esthonia, and Lithuania. I have a personal interest in this question. During the last war I was sent out by His Majesty's Government to become the Secretary to His Majesty's Minister in Stockholm and it was through Stockholm that passed all the negotiations with regard to the independence of these countries. As the physician who presided at the birth of these three Baltic States I may perhaps be allowed to take an interest in the growth of these children and I have followed them up to manhood. I want to know, Are you going to allow those three independent States to be absorbed in Russia?

Let me remind the House of the history of this question. During the whole of the early months of 1939 the question of these three independent States was being constantly raised in the negotiations between this country and Russia. You had given a guarantee to Poland. The Prime Minister came to this House on 31st March and suddenly announced that a guarantee had been granted to Poland. No attempt had been made apparently up to that time to find whether that guarantee would also be ratified by Russia. A whole series of contentious negotiations were entered into and it is quite certain historically that we could have had a Russian alliance at any time if we had been prepared to hand over to Russia those three independent Baltic States of Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania. But be it said to the honour of the Government of Mr. Neville Chamberlain that he refuted to be a party to such a dishonourable bargain, with the result that Stalin negotiated with Ribbentrop and found Ribbentrop a good deal more complacent. While conducting negotiations with us, he was also secretly conducting negotiations with Germany which led to the famous Treaty of Alliance of August, 1939. I am very sorry to have detained the House so long but I have been waiting here for hours, and this is the first time I have ventured to open my mouth in this new Parliament.

I should like to deal with another extremely important question touched on by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington. That is the question of this provisional Government which has been recognised by His Majesty's Ministers. This Government consists of 21 members. There is one vacancy—Mr. Thugutt seems, as far as I can make out to have refused. Officially there are no Communists in this Government but in fact the Polish Workers Party is really, I do not think it will be denied, the Communist Party. Officially there are only six members of the Polish Workers Party in the Cabinet but the fact is that at least two others belong to this Party—Mr. Rabanowski, the Minister of Communications, and Marshal Rola-zymierski, the Minister of Defence. The Field Marshal claims now to be a non-party man, but it is well known that he was the holder of a membership card of the Polish Workers Party and the number of his membership card was 21, showing that he was a very prominent and early member of this Party. The Prime Minister, Monsieur Osobka-Morawski, has changed his party allegiance so often that it is difficult to see to what party he belongs. Since 1944 he has been called a member of the Polish Workers' Party, the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party.

The penetration of all parties and groups by Communists, who deny that they are Communists, is very marked and it has been the system applied everywhere in all countries under Russian occupation—"You A, are a Socialist representing the Socialists; you B, represent the National Democrats; you C, represent the Peasant Party"—but the point is that very few of these people are known at all. The so-called Provisional President of this new Polish Provisional Government, Mr. Bierut, is a Communist. It cannot be denied that he is a prominent member of the Komintern, and of the 20 members of his Provisional Government the majority are entirely unknown people who never took part in the five years underground movement against Germany. Only two—Messieurs Mikolajczyk and Stanczyk, have come from this country, have been employed herein London as part of the London Government, and only four can certainly be said to be non-Communists. They are Monsieur Mikolajczyk, Monsieur Kiernik and Monsieur Wycech, who belong to the Peasant Party, and Monsieur Stanczyk, who belongs to the Socialist Party. To submit the whole question to a fair analysis, these are the only four members of the Provisional Government who can be described honestly as non-Communists.

Now under the prevailing conditions it is very doubtful whether these four people can really exercise any influence. This has been shown in this case of the Western frontier. They certainly have not represented Polish opinion on this question nor, apparently, did they protest against the trial of the 16 heroes who have been condemned. I got up here week after week, Wednesday after Wednesday, to ask His Majesty's Government, "What news have you of these 16 Polish heroes, these men who have fought for five years against the Germans in the underground movement?" The answer came regularly every week "We have no news." They had no news of those men who were given by General Ivan off a safe conduct in order that they might carry on negotiations with the Lublin Committee. It was only in San Francisco that finally M. Molotov confessed to the right hon. Gentleman the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that they had been arrested, in spite of the safe conduct, in spite of the assurance that had been given by the Russian Government to the British Government here and which had been conveyed to the Poles in London.

I admire the courage of our former Foreign Secretary who refused, backed up by Mr. Stettinius, to carry on any further negotiations. Then we had the trial in Moscow and we have been told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that these men confessed. We know how these confessions are brought about; we have not forgotten the trial of the British engineers for sabotage. They were forced to confess by methods on which I shall not dwell, but, as our White Paper shows, immediately after having made these confessions, when they were released, they went to the British Legation in Moscow and retracted the whole of their statements, which they said had been extorted from them by methods which had worn them out, and which had compelled them to confess.

Now what were the confessions of the 16 to which the hon. Gentleman referred? What do they amount to? They confessed that they were using a wireless set, that they were communicating, as they had been communicating for the last five years, with the Government here in London, the legitimate Government with whom they were perfectly entitled to communicate. What did they send in their despatches? Let me ask the hon. Gentleman to consult the copies of these despatches. Every single despatch that was sent here from London was submitted to the censorship here. The Government here were given the code. They had expert Polish linguists who translated every one of these despatches. If the hon. Gentleman will consult his archives he will see these despatches, all of which were sent with the approval of the British Government in London, and every despatch that came from Warsaw was also submitted, as soon as it arrived here, to the British Government. The British Government are fully cognizant of these despatches. The British Government can testify that there was not a single despatch inciting any opposition to Russia. They were advocating collaboration with Russia, and everything was done to help Russia in every possible way.

When the Poles recovered the city of Vilna—it was reconquered by the Poles and not by the Russians—they welcomed the Russians, they did everything they possibly could to fraternise with the Russians, and for three or four days circumstances were idyllic. The Polish officers then gave a banquet to the Russian officers and what happened at the close of the banquet? These Russian officers seized the Polish officers, who were deported at the conclusion of the banquet which they had offered to the Russians. They have been carried away to concentration camps and have never been heard of since.

I challenge the hon. Gentleman to deny the facts which I give him on this question. Can you expect to find confidence in the existing administration? On 24th July Reuter's despatch, published in this country, reported that 300 people were condemned by a special court in Warsaw for "treason against the Polish nation," and that 6,000 more cases were pending. On 18th August Warsaw radio gave another item which developed this information by saying that
"1,692 new cases of treason against the Polish nation were opened before a special tribunal in Warsaw last month."
If the hon. Gentleman will look up the archives, he will find that there are full copies of these despatches. The British Government are extremely well informed of these facts, because British prisoners were in Poland—men who had to make forced landings from aeroplanes—and others, who have been repatriated and have come back to this country. Their depositions have been made; what they have witnessed has been recorded. At the same time, most stringent orders have been given to these men that they should not say anything about their stay in Poland. It has not been thought desirable that they should reveal facts of which they are cognisant. But some of them have a most intimate knowledge of the circumstances in Poland today. Some were sheltered and taken care of by noble and gallant Poles, and from them learned the Polish language. They were thus in a position to talk to the Polish people, and they have related what they have seen of the way the Polish population was treated when the Russian troops arrived. All this was taken down when they arrived in this country. It is all on record, and I hope the War Office will now withdraw the ban and allow these men to give evidence, so that the people of this country can know what is the truth, what are the circumstances at present existing in Poland.

I endorse the demand of the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington that if you are to have a supervisory committee of the elections which are to take place in Greece, you should have a similar international supervisory committee to give guarantees that the elections which are about to take place in Poland are bona fide and that they do not resemble the so-called elections which were held in 1939 in the Ukraine, in White Russia, and in those districts to the East of the Curzon Line, when only one candidate was allowed to be proposed—very often it was Mr. Molotov himself—and the electors had the option of either voting for him or not at all. Those who sent in blank ballot papers were traced, because the papers in this so-called election were fully numbered and they were then accused of being anti-Russian, and were deported. Those were the so-called elections as a result of which it is stated that those Eastern Provinces, the Eastern Marches, desired to become incorporated in the Soviet Union.

I ask that these elections should not be a precedent for the elections which are about to take place in Poland, but that they should be as free and unfettered as was the recent General Election in this country. Nobody could deny that our people were allowed to vote according to their conscience, and as they saw fit. If such elections take place in Poland I have little doubt that the so-called Provisional Government I have described will be swept from office and that a real Government, representing the wishes and aspirations of the Polish people, will be restored to power.

7.20 p.m.

There is one point on which I should like to congratulate the three hon. Gentlemen opposite who initiated this Debate. I am deeply impressed by the great importance which they now attach to the "Daily Herald" and I am very moved by the importance which the hon. Gentleman the Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) attaches to the writings of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). If I may say so, they should all have studied his work before the Election and they would not have sought re-election, at any rate under the colours they fly. This week the House has with great moderation and responsibility devoted a great proportion of its time to discussing our foreign policy. I am sure that any discussion at present upon the conditions of Europe, or any part of Europe, is of great value if the same sense of responsibility and moderation is brought to these discussions as we have seen this week. But for one who, as it were, is newly-born to this dispatch-box I feel I must say that that moderation has not been very evident in this discussion. I do suggest that it is hardly responsible to talk about the Foreign Secretary of one of our Allies and a great Power "blurting out" what was undoubtedly an important statement. I think it most irresponsible, and not in accordance with the traditions of this House to talk of the activity of a friendly Power with a great deal of inaccuracy.

For example, it is departing from the facts to insist that members of the delegation who were arrested are all still in prison as my hon. and gallant Friend insisted three times. It is not proper that he should infer that they were all sternly dealt with. I do not want to be drawn into a discussion on this matter, and I would be dishonest if I pretended that all aspects of the affair were very acceptable. It is true that following representations by His Majesty's previous Government comparatively lenient treatment was meted out to these men. Some of them had sentences of four to six months and at least four of them are now at large and have a right to pursue their normal occupations. I say at least four because I had no knowledge that this subject is going to be discussed to-day. I thought that responsible people would be prepared to leave that in the middle position which was evidently reached, and proceed to a reasonable discussion of a very complex problem which His Majesty's Government freely admit this is.

May I say, too, that I am, and I am sure the House is, in debt to my hon. Friend the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory), for his discussion about the Polish frontier, but I cannot add to what the Foreign Secretary has already said because this is not a matter for this country or any other one country. It was decided at Potsdam that these areas should, provisionally, be administered by the Polish Provisional Government, and the definition of the boundaries will be held over to the peace conference. Let me see if I can put some of the points raised in the context of the policy of His Majesty's Government. I think my hon. Friend raised an important point when he: asked what were the possibilities of an amnesty. I cannot give a firm reply, but I can say that this has been engaging the attention of His Majesty's Government, and that they will continue discussion of that point through the normal channels. They will do so because His Majesty's Government clearly recognise the great services which Poland has rendered to the whole Allied cause, in particular, of course, those Poles who fought under our command. It has been, and will continue to be, the policy particularly of this Government, that we shall do all in our power to create for these people a worthy home in which they will enjoy normal democratic conditions. That is not a diplomatic phrase. It is the devout and persistent intention of this particular Government and the determination of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Let me see if I can point to some things which the Government have done to implement that intention. My right hon. Friend indicated in his speech on Monday the exhaustive nature of the discussions regarding the situation in Poland which took place at Potsdam. He announced the assurances he had received from the representatives of the Polish Provisional Government concerning civic rights for Poles returning home. May I ask my hon. and gallant Friend who raised this point, from whom can we receive assurances on this if not from the Provisional Government? Even if His Majesty's Government entertained great suspicions, which they do not, about the Provisional Government, as a matter of practical negotiations they are the only people who could be approached for assurances. These assurances have been given in relation to civic rights, to property, to reporting, to newspapers and—a precise question put to me—upon the withdrawal of the Russian Forces, except for those which are necessary to maintain communications. In addition, as my hon. Friends know, we now have an Ambassador in Warsaw. There is newly arrived in London, an Ambassador from Warsaw. We have established a courier service, and mean to extend it. We are doing everything we physically can do at this time, to restore normal life and usages in that country. We shall continue to assure all people interested of our intention to do what we can, and what we properly have the right to do, to restore democratic institutions and property in that country.

The work of restoration will, inevitably, be a slow process, but some progress should be reported now. I wish to say most emphatically that it is a sharp and unjustifiable departure from the facts to argue that the present Provisional Government is the same in composition or proportion as the Lublin Government. It is not so. The Government has been substantially broadened, despite assertions from the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, by the inclusion in other posts, not only of Poles from within Poland, but also, as I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) for pointing out, by the inclusion of such people as Mikolajczyk and Stanczyk, and it does not end there.

Will my hon. Friend allow me? It is very important. He says it has been substantially altered from the Lublin Committee. Will he give facts about it and say what the additions have been?

I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend did not intentionally misquote me. I hope I am displaying the care for my language which I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend shows on such a subject. I said the Government had been broadened and I pointed to the inclusion of M. Mikolajczyk and M. Stanczyk, and I should also point to the facilities which have been offered to the leader of the Christian Labour Party, M. Popiel, who has returned Ito Poland from London, and, if my information is correct, has been given more than reasonable facilities for organising and restoring his party. The Polish Provisional Government have stated that it is their intention that no section of political opinion should be excluded from political life, except for a few extremist groups who have irretrievably compromised themselves by actual collaboration with fee Germans either before or during the war.

Certainly. Again, I do not want to bore the House, but my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead pointed to them. The only party which had a substantial existence before the war and is not now directly represented is the National Democratic Party. [Interruption.] My hon. and gallant Friend says "Exactly," but he knows, or, if he does not, he has no right to address the House, that the National Party was a party of many dimensions and sections, a party which, to put it at its lowest and kindliest, had a most curious history, and the Provisional Government have already pointed out that those sections of the old National Party which did not compromise themselves will be given facilities for offering and running candidates affiliated to the other parties whose record is clear and beyond doubt.

I do argue that, when you have an offer for three of the four main parties and a qualification for the fourth, it cannot be denied that a sincere and systematic effort is being made to restore the political life of Poland, and, of course, I think that, in our assessment of the situation, it is proper that we should remember that democratic life, or, at any rate, democratic politics as we normally think of them, have been suspended in this tragic country for substantially longer than the duration of this war. That conditions in Poland are far from ideal, no one in the Government is going to pretend otherwise. It is not to the expected that they could be ideal after six years of war and after the previous history of that country. Life is hard, much remains to be done, but that is no reason for standing aside. All Poles are needed in Poland to play their part in developing the large territories which have now been placed under Polish administration, and I am indebted to my hon. and gallant Friend for that admission in his speech. The Foreign Secretary, in his speech of 20th August,: asked all Poles abroad to return and take their share in that responsibility and in that way. We hope that, very shortly, we will have started the flow of Poles from this country back to their own.

We are optimistic that with the consent of the parties interested we may, within a very few weeks, have started the return of Poles who wish to return from Field-Marshal Montgomery's zone, and I very much dislike what I thought were rather irresponsible figures quoted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. These Poles are going to take their share in running their country, and there is a great urgency for them. We hope very shortly the Provisional Government will give us facilities for sending observers into the territory which they now administer. We know a little about it already. This House, which has always listened this week gravely and not without emotion to Members pointing to what may happen in Europe from hunger and disease during this oncoming winter, will be impressed if I tell them that in Western Poland just now we know there are crops which cannot be garnered unless we get the man power back there quickly. We are going to do what we can. We are being backed by the Provisional Government, which is displaying great energy and imagination in the re-start of the economic life which lies in their control. I do plead earnestly with every one who is truly a friend of the Poles—and I would be impertinent if I suggested otherwise than that the three hon. Members to whom we are indebted for this discussion are not real friends of the Poles—and all who think of themselves in that way that they must band themselves to see that those Polish men and women who want to go back to their homes and their country are given every inducement to do so. We can help in recreating a healthy Poland, and we will, so will every nation in Europe, and so will everyone of the United Nations, but we cannot have a healthy and restored Poland without the Poles themselves to do the job.

Civilian Clothing (Shortage)

7.37 p.m.

I am very sorry that there is no continuity to to-day's Debates, so that I could have the privilege of congratulating the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on a truly brilliant impromptu performance on this, his first time at the Box. Secondly, I would like to begin my speech with an apology to the President of the Board of Trade for raising my subject at apparently such short notice and at this hour, but in self defence I must point out that his announcement about the new cut in clothing rations was made only the day before yesterday, on 22nd August, and it takes a day or two for the implications and repercussions to reach the ordinary Member. Hon. Members will recollect that the announcement of 22nd August stated that the 24 new clothing coupons which will become valid on 1st September will have to last eight months instead of the customary six; and, further, there is a grave danger or fear that there may not be supplies in the shops to meet these coupons.

Is that part of the quotation?

It will be agreed on all sides of the House that the people of this country were really hoping that with the termination of hostilities a benevolent Government, instead of announcing fresh cuts, would be announcing increases as rapidly and as frequently as possible. Consequently, before this House reassembles there may be considerable unrest in the country on this matter. I therefore hope that the President of the Board of Trade will agree that it is desirable that some fuller statement be made and that he will welcome the opportunity that I am giving him.

I must admit that I speak partly, and chiefly, on my own account, because I seem to have an undue number of awkward and critical friends who have a habit of turning to me and saying, "You're an M.P. aren't you? What's this mess you've got us into over the clothing situation?" Apart from weakly disclaiming any personal responsibility, I admit that I have no knowledge, and that I would like to know what is the mess we are in, if any, and how it arose. I can assure the House that I did have the courtesy to inform the present Chancellor of the Exchequer that I intended to raise the subject this evening, because there might be, by implication, some question raised of his stewardship of his former office as President of the Board of Trade.

Coming to the point, it is generally agreed in the cotton textile industry that there must elapse approximately seven months between the arrival of the raw material and its reaching its destination, the back of the consumer, as a manufactured article. Consequently, if we are inquiring into the present shortage we must look back to February or March of this year. In Lancashire during the past few months we gained the impression, particularly in February and March, when it began to appear that the war in Europe, at least, could not last much longer, that His Majesty's Government were giving serious and urgent consideration to what would be the consumer needs of the civilian population at the termination of hostilities. We also gained the impression that as a result of those deliberations definite targets of production were being set before the industry.

So I come to my first question, Did or did not the Coalition Government prior to the end of the German war give consideration to this question of civilian clothing needs? This may give the impression of prying into what, in the last Parliament, were regarded as Cabinet secrets, but surely the veil of secrecy can now be partly lifted. I suggest that it is in the best interests of the present Government that the veil of secrecy be lifted. I fully admit that I am giving the right hon. and learned Gentleman a grand opportunity at this moment, because several allegations were made during the speeches in the Debate on the Address that the present Government inherited a legacy of chaos, muddle and inefficiency. I do not think that the caretaker Government had sufficient time to create all this muddle and inefficiency, and as at the material time the Coalition Government were still in office, we can only understand that these allegations refer to them. Therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have an opportunity of confirming or otherwise the allegation that the Coalition Government were negligent in regard to what was reasonably assumed to be the future clothing requirements of the civilian population.

Reverting to Lancashire, it was all along fully apparent to my friends in the cotton textile industry that the people would be reduced almost to second-hand sack-cloth and ashes unless something was done at that time about the man-power allocated to the cotton textile industry. I understand, though I am open to correction, that my Lancashire friends and, indeed, all sections of the clothing industry, used every means in their power to make the most urgent representations to the Board of Trade, to call the attention of the President to the grave situation which was arising, and to emphasise that the bottleneck was the question of the shortage of man-power.

So I come to my second question, Can the President of the Board of Trade confirm that for some considerable time past the Board of Trade has constantly received urgent representations to this effect? I observe in the Official Report of 13th March, 1945, that my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. S. Shephard) ventured to ask the President, who is the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, if his attention had been drawn to the impending clothing shortage, and what steps he proposed to take to remedy the position. The hon. Member: asked as a supplementary:
"Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is no danger of a collapse in the clothing coupon system?"
To which the President replied:
"Yes, Sir. A collapse is certainly not contemplated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1945; Vol 409, c. 2–3.]
The President's original reply had been an admission that the bottleneck was due to lack of man-power. As far back as 16th January, 1945, the President had said, in reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. H. Beaumont), that he was in touch with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour about it. So I come to my third question, What transpired in those conversations between the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour in January, February and March of this year? Did the President succeed in squeezing any labour out of the Minister of Labour, and, if not, why not? I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not change his ground in this matter. I suspect that he may try to do so, because, in his Press conference on Tuesday this week, if he has been correctly reported, he said, referring to a period eight months ago, that the difficulty was that mill workers who had experienced better conditions in war-time occupations were not anxious to go back to the spinning mill. I do not want to take too long, but I would like to quote from the "Daily Telegraph" report of 22nd August referring to a Press conference the day before:
"The President said, at a Press Conference later, that the shortage of cloth was due to the hard fact that eight months ago, and right up to the end of the war, workers who might have been spinning cotton yarns in the mills were doing more urgent jobs. The difficulty was that mill workers who had experienced better conditions in wartime occupations were not anxious to go back."
If the "Daily Telegraph" is in error, I tender my apologies to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I suspect that the workers were not anxious to go back to the wages that they get in spinning mills, but be that as it may, we must not forget that at that time the right hon. Gentleman was not hesitating to send boys into the not-too-pleasant conditions of the mines, or into bloody battles against unpleasant enemies in unpleasant climates in the Far East. In addition, His Majesty's Government enjoyed considerable powers over industry, a