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Commons Chamber

Volume 640: debated on Monday 8 May 1961

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House Of Commons

Monday, 8th May, 1961

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Great Northern London Cemetery Company Bill Lords

Lancashire Quarter Sessions Bill Lords

Read the Third time and passed, without Amendment.

London County Council (Money) Bill

Read the Third time and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Pensions And National Insurance

War Pensioners' Welfare Service


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether it is the sole purpose of the War Pensioners' Welfare Service to ensure that pensioners receive all the monetary benefits that are available to them; and what steps have been taken to ensure that the availability of the service is known to all war pensioners.

No, Sir. It is also intended to secure for them any help which they need, and it works for this purpose closely with the voluntary bodies.

In reply to the second part of this Question, a very wide variety of steps are taken. As I told the House on 27th February, I shall be again writing to war pensioners this summer, and sending them a leaflet which sets out the up-to-date war pensions provisions.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reassuring reply, may I ask him whether he will bear in mind that older people often tend to be forgetful and that periodic outbursts of publicity or reminders of this excellent service would not come amiss?

I agree with what my hon. Friend says. It is a good deal with that in mind that I am this summer taking the step that I outlined in my Answer.

Unemployment Benefit (Short-Time Working)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether, whether, in view of the anomalies brought to notice as a result of the recent recession in the motor industry and the sense of unfairness resulting from these, he will appoint a committee to review the conditions under which unemployment benefit is paid to those working short-time.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a widespread feeling of unfairness about the anomalies between five-day and six-day weeks and day shift working and night shift working? I recognise that it is difficult to deal with one anomaly without uncovering another, but will not the right hon. Gentleman take some steps, whether by a committee or a more informal means of proceeding, to see whether this matter can be reviewed and something substituted which strikes the great body of people involved as much more fair and equitable?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, this matter was thrashed out fully by the National Insurance Advisory Committee some years ago, and this was followed by the enactment of Section 4 of the National Insurance Act, 1957. I do not think that his suggestion for a committee would be helpful in the circumstances.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has received repeated representations from the Trades Union Congress on this matter and that there is, as my hon. Friend says, great dissatisfaction? Will not he reconsider the matter, because with the extension of five-day week working there is no doubt that existing regulations give rise to many anomalies and much discontent?

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, a great many people still work a six-day week, and the system clearly must also take that into account.

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that his mind is completely closed on this matter and that he thinks that there is no problem worth considering?

No, Sir. I am only replying to the hon. Gentleman by saying that I do not accept his suggestion for a committee.



asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will prescribe emphysema on the Schedule of Industrial Diseases.

As emphysema among people who work in dust, like miners and pottery workers, is so close to pneumoconiosis, will not the right hon. Gentleman obtain further advice to see whether emphysema may be scheduled for people who are working in dust industries?

I have certainly studied this matter closely, because, as the hon. Lady knows, this is far from the first time that the suggestion has been made. Part of the problem is that a very large amount of the emphysema that we find has nothing whatever to do with pneumoconiosis and clearly is one of those risks of the population at large which, as the hon. Lady will recall, are excluded by Section 55 (2) of the Industrial Injuries Act.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider this problem from another angle and, instead of using an isolated word like emphysema, will he consider pulmonary disability in all those engaged in certain industries after a specified number of years in those industries in the way that South Africans do in gold mining? If he did this, he would probably do justice to so many of our constituents who find that it is quite wrong and unconscionable to them that they should not receive compensation although they suffer from this disease?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, considerable research work concerning pneumoconiosis and related conditions is being done at the moment by the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit of the Medical Research Council at Llandough, which I hope to see again in a week or two. However, the hon. Gentleman will understand if I show a certain unwillingness to accept a medical formula from him across the Floor of the House, as I have not his medical qualifications.

Retirement Pensions


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will make a statement, giving the number of persons and the amount of money involved, about the position of persons who paid their full insurance contributions and thereby become entitled to retirement pensions while in Great Britain and who later went to the Republic of Ireland and were there-for no longer eligible for the increases made in the rate of retirement pensions; why they were made ineligible; and in what circumstances such persons can become entitled to retirement pensions at the present rates.

I have no statement to make or figures to give on this subject. In general, under arrangements starting from the beginning of the scheme, pensioners leaving the United Kingdom to take up residence elsewhere have taken with them pensions payable at the rates current at their departure; these have always exceeded substantially the level of pensions earned by their contributions. But pensioners continuing to reside outside the United Kingdom do not, except in cases where reciprocal agreements so provide, receive increases in pensions made subsequent to their departure.

I am obliged to the Minister for that detailed reply, but is it not a fact that pensioners of the type mentioned in my Question paid their full insurance contributions and thereupon became entitled by Statute to full pensions of the same category and type as other pensioners, and that to discriminate against the pensioners mentioned in my Question is unfair, unjust and illegal as far as the Statute is concerned? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into this matter again with a view to seeing that the discrimination is avoided and that justice is done to this class of person?

These pensioners receive in full the pensions for which they contributed and, as I said in my main Answer, they receive very good value for money indeed. Concerning the hon. and learned Member's suggestion of illegality, this procedure has been followed since the original increase under the National Insurance Act in 1946 and, if the hon. and learned Gentleman is right on the law of the matter, I should have thought that it would have been challenged by someone before now.

The fact that murder has existed from the time of Cain does not mean——

Order. These illuminating interventions occupy time which is not at the disposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Graduated Pensions Scheme


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many applications for certificates of non- participation are awaiting attention by the Registrar; how many employees are covered by them; and what numbers of new applications are now coming in.

At Friday, 5th May, there were in the Registrar's office 224 elections, covering 2,137 employees, for which certificates had not been issued. Of these, 132 can be dealt with only after further action by the employer. Since 4th April, 1,891 applications for certificates covering 23,650 employees have been received.

Can the Minister make any estimate of the likely flow of applications for contracting out? Does he think that it is now drying up, or are we to expect that the figure may rise to a total of, say, 5 million?

At present, as the figures I have given make clear, the flow is quite small, most of the applications being in respect of very small schemes. I would prefer not to make any long-range forecast.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many letters of protest he has received from or relating to insured persons who are paying graduated contributions from which they cannot derive any graduated pension benefit.

I know of 26 such letters. Analysis of them indicates that only four of them clearly establish that the person concerned has no possibility of contributing enough to earn some graduated pension.

Is the Minister aware that fewer protests appear to have reached him than have reached me and my hon. Friends? Can it be that people consider it a waste of time writing to the right hon. Gentleman?

The hon. Member knows very well that all serious complaints are seriously considered.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the total cost to date of providing publicity and information in connection with the new graduated pensions scheme.

While it is not possible precisely to separate expenditure on the necessary publicity for the graduated scheme from that simultaneously effected in respect of the simultaneous increase in flat-rate benefits, the best estimate I can give is about £64,000.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how much money has been wasted on printing expensive booklets twice over because the first were out of date before the scheme began?

There has been very little nugatory expenditure indeed, because, as the hon. Member will understand, leaflets with a large circulation like this in any event require second and third editions.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what additional pension he estimates will be earned during his normal working life by a man, aged 42 and earning £10 per week on entering the graduated pensions scheme, making allowance for a 2 per cent., annual increase in earnings; and what, on the same assumptions, would be his weekly earnings immediately before retirement.

About 12s. a week if the man retired at 65, and about 21s. 6d. a week if he deferred his retirement until 70. His earnings by age 65 would, on the assumption made in the Question, be about £15 10s. a week and by age 70 about £17 a week.

Do not these figures reveal that on retirement there will be a very great reduction from earnings to pension? That is precisely what we assumed it was the aim of the Government to eliminate or reduce. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the promise of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Home Secretary that the standard of living would be doubled in 25 years, and, in view of that, does he seriously say that the standard of living of this man will be doubled at 65, as compared with his standard of living at 40?

The hon. Member bases all that first of all on ignoring the flat-rate pension at whatever rate it may be and, secondly, ignoring the rapidly growing body of voluntary provision. It is only by adding those two factors to the third one which he has posed in his Question that it is possible to form any sensible view on this matter.

Was not the right hon. Gentleman extremely successful in the election in confusing the public?

At least when I put a question I put all the facts and not one-third of them.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if, in the light of latest figures of persons participating and contracted out of the graduated pension scheme, he will issue revised estimates of future income and payments out of the National Insurance Fund and a revised analysis of National Insurance income.

I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT revised figures for the current year. These figures do not differ significantly from those in the Government Actuary's Report on the National Insurance Bill, 1960 (Cmnd. 1197) and the variation is insufficient to justify at present the production of revised figures for future years.

Following are the figures:


Earlier Estimate


£ millions Revised Estimate
1. Income
(a) Flat-rate751769
(b) Graduated186165
Exchequer Supplements187189
2. Expenditure1,1341,144

* "From the Government Actuary's Report on the National Insurance Bill, 1960 (Cmnd. 1197).


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is the latest information of the number of persons in non-participating employments as regards the graduated pensions scheme.

Up to 5th May, the number of employees covered by certificates of non-participation was 4,289,000.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what he estimates will be the payment from the National Insurance Fund to the Inland Revenue Department for the two years 1960 to 1962 in respect of the collection, etc., of graduated contributions under the National Insurance Act, 1959.

Has the Minister any idea of how many more times this sum it will cost the various firms which have to do the extensive calculations to arrive at how much money must be paid?

I think the hon. Gentleman underrates the resilience and skill of British industry.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what will be the additional pension earned at normal retirement age by a man earning £15 a week who enters the graduated scheme at the age of 40 years; and what would be his weekly earnings immediately before retirement assuming a 2 per cent. annual increase in his earnings.

About 22s. a week if the man retired at age 65 (and about 36s. a week if he deferred his retirement until age 70). On the assumption made in the Question, his earnings by age 65 would be about £24 a week and by age 70 about £26 10s. a week.

Does the Minister not think that this addition to the pension, 57s. 6d. on the present basis, is quite derisory? Does he not think that by this time National Assistance must surely have been much more extensively raised than by what may perhaps be the price of a couple of packets of cigarettes? Does he not think something better than this could be done?

I think it is very good value for money, but on scale or size I think the hon. Member appreciates as well as any of us that there is a very deep cleavage of principle between his point of view and mine.

On the question of value for money, can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea of what this 22s. will be worth by the time this man retires?

Provided, as seems likely, we have a continuation of Conservative Government, at least 22s.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what estimate he has made of the total cost to date of the graduated contribution and pension scheme.

It is estimated that the total cost to 30th April, 1961, is about £1,600,000. This includes the costs of the Inland Revenue and other Government Departments.

Does the Minister not think that this is a shocking waste of public money when many of the benefits paid out are not commensurate at all with the contributions paid and when in some cases there will be no return at all on the contributions paid?

I think it is a very reasonable provision, whose amount must be looked at on the basis that the total expenditure to date is less than 1 per cent. of the expected yield of contributions for the first year.

National Health Service Charges


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what proportion of those persons who apply to the National Assistance Board for a refund of National Health Service charges subsequently obtain a supplementary pension.

Will my right hon. Friend consider endeavouring to obtain these figures, or, at least, figures that would give an indication of the proportion of people who are obtaining such a supplementary pension, as that would provide us with an indication of the number of people who are entitled to National Assistance but are not at present receiving it?

It is the fact, so the Assistance Board tells me, that in a number of cases where an application is made for a refund, the discussions with the person concerned enable a supplementary pension to be put into payment. The reason why there are no figures is that records are not kept showing the number of these individual applications which have such a sequel. I will, however, discuss with the Board whether it is possible to meet the point raised by my hon. Friend.

Widowed Mothers


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that a widowed mother is subject, under the National Insurance Act, to the limitations on earnings rule, while a widowed mother receiving a war pension or allowance under the Industrial Injuries Act is not so subject, and that this difference has, in view of the rise in costs of fuel, medicines and other essentials, increased hardship on the former since November, 1960; and what steps he now proposes to take to remedy this.

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir". But so far as the allegation contained in the latter part of the Question is concerned, I remind the hon. and learned Member that the rates both of widowed mother's personal allowance and of the allowances in respect of her children were substantially increased last month, that the latter are unaffected by the widow's earnings and that the total provision for a widowed mother with three children is now in real terms at a level 82 per cent. higher than in October, 1951.

Would the Minister agree that there is a conflict between these two sets of Statutes, giving rise to a real anomaly and discrimination between the two sets of beneficiaries in the respective circumstances? Will he look into this again with a view to ensuring that that anomaly is avoided?

No. That question is founded on a misapprehension as to the totally different nature of National Insurance, on the one hand, and war pensions and industrial injury benefits, on the other hand.

Departmental Estimates (Expenditure And Staff)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance why the provision for his Department of publications, office machines, printing, paper, office supplies, etc., by Her Majesty's Stationery Office has risen from £894,500 in 1959–60 to £1,207,250 in the current year.

As the published Estimates show, almost all this increase is referable to greater expenditure on office machinery. This is primarily due to the equipment required for recording contributions under the Graduated Pensions Scheme.

Since the right hon. Gentleman appears to admit that this staggering increase is due to complications of the straightforward twist involved in the new pensions scheme, will he admit that muddle, confusion and chaos have resulted in his Department following changes in Government decisions?

No; it is just the opposite. It derives from the decision to use the most up-to-date machinery. Part of this additional expenditure relates to part of the cost of the new computer, which is to record contributions and is being installed at Newcastle.

Did I understand the Minister aright to say that this applied mainly to office machinery? Will he not break this matter up and tell us how it applies to other items—paper, for example—which, I believe, have considerably increased?

The substantial increase is in office machinery. The increase in printing, paper and supplies is about £12,000, and in publications £1,000. The substance, about £300,000, is office machinery.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance why the 1961–62 Estimates for his Department show an increase of 1,404 persons employed in administration.

The figures quoted by the hon. Member relate to the increase in staff forecast for the financial year ended 31st March, 1961. The actual increase at 1,143 was somewhat smaller. Apart from some increase due to the increased number of beneficiaries, the main reason for the increase was work connected with the introduction of the provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1959.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell what this will be in increased salaries? Can he further say how many of them will be temporary, how many will be dismissed, in other words, when the scheme gets under way? Does he not regard this as a very costly swindle?

So far as salaries are concerned, perhaps the hon. Member will study the Estimates of my Department. So far as the question of temporary provision is concerned, perhaps he will put it on the Paper. So far as the third part of his supplementary question is concerned, it is an extremely economical and efficient method of making any real progress.

Blind Persons


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will promote legislation to make payment of pensions to, and the welfare of, blind persons the direct responsibility of his Department.

No, Sir. I see no justification for the transfer to my Department of functions in respect of blind persons at present discharged both by my right hon. Friends and by local authorities.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there is a vast body of opinion which is convinced that his Department should be responsible for the payment of blind pensions and also for the care and welfare of blind people? He will be aware that all other disability pensions, are his responsibility. Why should a person in receipt of a blind pension not be taken under the right hon. Gentleman's wing and looked after by him instead of having the National Assistance Board to look after his interests?

The hon. Member's question goes far further than that. He himself has referred to these people's welfare, which is partly the responsibility, admirably discharged, of local authorities and of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. The question of training is for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. It would be a retrograde step to try to create some new pyramid of organisation on top of various functions which are perfectly adequately performed on the present basis.

The right hon. Gentleman is trying to confuse the House. Obviously, the point of my question was the payment of blind pensions by his Department. Of course, local authorities and the Minister of Health would be involved, but it could be delegated responsibility, as is the case with so many other things, with the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance being ultimately responsible for Questions in this House.

The hon. Gentleman has a Question on the Paper—and that is what I must answer—in which he refers specifically to the welfare of blind persons——

Will the right hon. Gentleman, apart from the welfare aspect, be willing to look at the first part of the Question about the pension, and treat it in exactly the same way as, say, war pensioners' pensions are treated?

No, because I think it would need the creation of a wholly new organisation in my Department, and for the hon. Gentleman to take that point is hardly consistent with the point of view on staffing and expenses which was taken by his hon. Friends behind him a moment ago.

Assistance Board Offices


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will give consideration to the provision of separate offices for retirement pensioners drawing National Assistance in all cases where this is possible, especially when new offices are constructed.

No, Sir. Pensioners applying for or receiving supplementary assistance have in general no need to call at the Board's offices.


Smokeless Fuels, Coventry


asked the Minister of Power what steps he is taking to see that there is an adequate supply of smokeless fuel, other than gas coke, available to the public in the city of Coventry consequent on the introduction of extensive smokeless zones within the city.

I think that coke will be one of the mainstays of the Clean Air Programme in Coventry, as it is elsewhere. There are good supplies of it in the West Midlands, including high-quality gas coke suitable for open fires. Supplies of premium fuels have generally improved and should improve further as the plans of the gas and coal industries for increased production come fully into effect.

Ministry Of Power



asked the Minister of Power whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the results of the experiments in the import of liquid methane for the production of gas.

No, Sir. I have nothing to add to the replies given to the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) on 13th February and 24th April.

As it is reported that the Gas Council is about to make its proposals to the Minister following these experiments, will he undertake that before the Government take any decision on the question of importing liquid methane he will circulate a statement giving a full account of the data affecting this question, in particular, the comparative cost factors involved, and also of the political and social aspects?

No. I cannot give an undertaking that I shall behave in exactly that manner, but I have given an undertaking in the past that I should not only weigh up the factors involved very carefully indeed, but that I should inform the House of the factors as soon as the proposals are made and the decision is about to be taken.

Can the Minister give us some idea of when this statement is likely to be forthcoming in view of the wide publicity now being given to the capital expenditure involved by the Gas Council in this and the fact that its scheme seems now to be in a highly developed stage?

I am expecting, as the hon. Member no doubt read this morning, that I shall receive proposals from the Gas Council in the fairly near future.

Would the right hon. Gentleman explain what he means by saying that he will make a statement about the various factors involved when a decision is about to be taken? Does that mean that a statement will be made before the decision is taken, so that this House can have an opportunity of considering it?

I intend, when the Gas Council makes its proposals, to consider them and to make up my mind; and I have already undertaken to tell the House the factors that I took into consideration when I made up my mind.

Ministry Of Aviation



asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement about the progress of Skybolt.

No, Sir. I have already said that progress is satisfactory and I consider that the giving of further information could in no way serve the public interest.

Does the Minister still feel as confident about this weapon as the Minister of Defence said he was some time ago?

I am certainly as confident as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, but I think that on the whole we volunteer too much information about our future weapons.

Are we not entitled to know as much as is reasonably satisfactory having regard to security? Can the Minister say whether the aeroplanes themselves are available to take these missiles?

Certainly as much as is consistent with security, but potential enemies do not volunteer such information to us and the House should be a little chary of volunteering it to others.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the President of the United States has at least shown his confidence in Skybolt by increasing the amount of money allocated to this weapon?

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the OFFICIAL REPORT, where he will be able to read some of the statements made by the present Minister of Defence and by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air, both of whom on repeated occasions in the House have declared that Skybolt would be ready in the course of a few years? Is he aware that, as I believe, one right hon. Gentleman said it would be ready in 1963?

London Airport (Car Park)


asked the Minister of Aviation whether tenders have now been invited for the design and construction of a multi-storey car park in the Central Terminal at London Airport.

The preliminary specification is now available and firms interested in this type of project have been invited by advertisement to apply for information. It is hoped to invite tenders in June.

Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for that helpful and interesting reply, may I ask whether he will say what special plans have been made to deal with the undoubtedly very heavy traffic that we shall have in the course of the summer and when he thinks this additional car parking space will be available?

I think that additional space from this garage may begin to be available late in 1962 and the garage will be built by 1963. I expect that we shall have enough car parking space during the coming summer, but we expect a heavy increase in traffic and I am sure that it is right to make this provision.

Abbotsinch Airport


asked the Minister of Aviation how many of the parties concerned with the facilities to be provided at Abbotsinch Airport and its design have been consulted so far; and how many are still to be consulted.

Preliminary consultations with the principal users have been completed.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether B.E.A., which will be a principal user, has been consulted? Is it the case that B.E.A. wants terminal buildings which will match the needs of aircraft passengers in the age in which we are travelling? Is it the case that the Minister is resisting its proposals and is determined to create a cemented skeleton similar to the present structure at Renfrew Airport?

We have certainly consulted B.E.A. and there is no divergence of interest between us.

Surely the hon. Gentleman can answer the simple question I put to him. Is there agreement between the Ministry and B.E.A. on the kind of terminal building that is to be created?

We have been having preliminary discussions and next week we shall have discussions with the architects. There may be points of detail which may arise thereafter. All I am saying is that everything is going according to plan.

Aircraft Accidents (Survey)


asked the Minister of Aviation what was the reason for the delay in publication of the Survey of the Accidents to Aircraft of the United Kingdom in 1958.

The delay was due to pressure of more urgent work. Future surveys will be published more promptly.

Will not the hon. Gentleman tell us what was the nature of the urgent work that prevented the publication of this survey at an appropriate time? Is it not the case that a survey is undertaken so that we may learn something from it that will prevent accidents? Was it not rather unfortunate that, when in 1958 notifiable and fatal accidents were higher in number than ever before, it should have taken two years to get a survey into circulation?

The more urgent work is the preventive and remedial work which follows the accident. The statistical work is done by the same staff, and that has accounted for the delay in the publication of the survey. The staff position has now improved. We hope that the 1959 survey will be available at the end of this month; the 1960 survey should be available before the end of the year.

Blue Streak

33 and 34.

asked the Minister of Aviation (1) what has been the total expenditure to date on the development of the Blue Streak missile since the decision to discontinue the project as a military weapon on 13th April, 1960;

(2) what progress has been made towards using the Blue Streak missile as a launcher for space research purposes; and when he expects the talks to be concluded on European and Commonwealth participation in this project.

The cost of keeping the launcher in being is about £3¼ million to the end of April. We have progressed to the stage that last week two static firings of the complete rocket were successfully carried out. I hope that answers from the countries concerned to the Anglo-French proposals will be received soon.

We were told almost a year ago that the project was not for military purposes only and that a decision would be reached within two months. We are now well over thirteen months from that time. May I ask when we can expect the Minister to get down to business and how long this enormous rate of public expenditure will continue? Can the right hon. Gentleman also say on precisely what projects it is being spent?

It is being spent in bringing the launcher up to the point at which the whole integrated system of motors, fuel pumps, etc., can be fired statically at Spadeadam. This has been done twice successfully and, therefore, that money has been extremely usefully spent. As for the time, I have been disappointed before. I share the hon. Member's feelings about that, and I am anxious to get a decision as early as I can.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole question of space research and the advancement of modern technologies, ranging from cryogenics to electronics, to metals, to velocities and so on, is wholly dependent on this country being involved? If we are not to be involved in space research, can the right hon. Gentleman say what plans the Government have to evacuate 20 million people from this island if we cannot sustain them in an industrial economy?

I am very conscious of the importance from the technological point of view of being in on these forms of technology and work. I fully appreciate that one advantage would be that we should have this knowledge. What would happen if Europe did not come in is another matter which would have to be considered if and when that situation arose, which I hope it will not.

As the Minister has shown that we are in a technical position to use the weapon ourselves, will he put a time limit on future co-operation and then take an urgent decision to go ahead ourselves?

We have been having talks on the technical level with the Germans who are considering the matter. I would rather finish these first.

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice for my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) and myself that one of us will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.


Calderstones Hospital


asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement of the outcome of the review of patients detained in Calderstones Hospital.

Five hundred and fifty-one patients were discharged from compulsory powers during the six months beginning 1st November, 1960. The total number of patients subject to compulsory powers decreased during this period from 1,204 to 646.

Did the review reveal that some tragic mistake had been made? While welcoming the recent releases of patients who have been detained for periods up to 33 years, for which we should be grateful to the new superintendent, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that similar cases are still being brought to the attention of Lancashire Members of Parliament, including one case only last week?

I will always look at any case that hon. Members bring to my attention, but the right interpretation of these figures is that they represent the change in point of view and in approach which was embodied in the new Mental Health Act.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that all these long-stay patients will be reviewed by the medical superintendent and the hospital management board?

General Infirmary, Leeds (Traffic Noise)


asked the Minister of Health if he will make representations to the local traffic authorities in Leeds regarding the alleviation of noise outside the General Infirmary at Leeds.

I understand that the watch committee will receive a deputation from the hospital authority on this matter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the nursing staff, as well as the teaching staff, of the infirmary are behind those who are seeking to secure some alleviation of this trouble, and that it is felt that a little help from the Minister of Health would assist those who are trying to look after the interests of the patients?

I am aware that there is noise from one of the streets—Calverley Street, I am told—but it is really a matter for the board of governors. The approach in this instance has come from the justices, and it is through them that the offer has been made for the watch committee to meet the board, which I think will be accepted.

Is the hon. Lady aware that a good deal of interest has been taken locally in this matter without perhaps the glare of publicity which comes from a Parliamentary Question by someone who does not represent the constituency? Nevertheless, is she also aware that, while the local people have been trying to do all they can, the Leeds Infirmary is situated on a very busy road right in the centre of Leeds and that it has not been possible for the local people to do everything that they would like to do?

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley) has a particular interest in the matter. I understand that he has a daughter who is nursing at the infirmary. As I said in my reply to him, I am aware that there is a noise problem and that the board of governors has been pressing this matter for some time.

While I support my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley) in respect of the Leeds Infirmary, may I ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind the devastating effect on patients at University College Hospital, London, of the new traffic regulations?

Hospital Building (Tenders)


asked the Minister of Health what reply he has had to his letter to the North East Metropolitan Hospital Board concerning the review of its procedure to enable fixed price tenders to be accepted more speedily.

I am telling hospital authorities generally that fixed price tenders should not be open for more than two months.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I welcome that reply? I was disturbed because there was a certain amount of unnecessary delay in dealing with this Question before.



asked the Minister of Health what reply he has sent to the protest by the Confederation of Health Service Employees against his refusal to back-date the increase in pay for pre-student nurses to coincide with the recent increase in pay for other student nurses.

Am I to deduce from that reply that the Minister has turned down the Confederation's request that he should review his refusal to post-date these increases? If I am correct in believing that he is persisting in his refusal, might I now ask him if he will seriously consider, at any rate for the future, the importance of relating increases for nursing students with those of the pre-nursing students, so that these continuous pinpricks of irritation to this important area of recruitment into nursing may cease?

I am not sure whether the hon. Lady meant post-date or antedate, but this matter is not prejudged for the future. In this instance, the interval of time was, as I reminded her a week ago, much shorter than in the last preceding case.

Spastic Children


asked the Minister of Health if he will state his plans for supplying permanent hospital accommodation for every bedridden spastic child.

Hospital authorities have been asked to propose long-term development programmes. My right hon. Friend would expect any shortages in this field to receive due priority in these programmes.

Does the hon. Lady recall that not long ago she sent me a letter saying that the Ministry was not aware of the number of bedridden spastic children? May I beg her and her right hon. Friend to realise that the parents of these children are in a terrible position, especially when there are other children to be looked after? It is a terrible strain upon them. Will she and her right hon. Friend give this matter the greatest urgency, find out the numbers of children involved, and make certain that accommodation is found for them?

No records are kept of waiting lists for spastic children because they can be accommodated in different kinds of hospitals. Some need orthopædic treatment and others need different accommodation. When plans are put before us, we will expect, because these children will be known also to local authorities, that regional hospital boards will take into account the needs of their areas.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this is to be a ten-year programme, so that it will be impossible to look after those children who are suffering now? Cannot she promise, in view of that, to do something now, as it is urgently necessary to make sure that permanent accommodation is found in hospitals for these children?

We are doing our best, but there are demands in all sections of hospital work. In the case the hon. Gentleman brought to my notice, temporary accommodation was found for eight weeks, and I hope that that will be continued.

Mental Hospital, West Riding


asked the Minister of Health what developments have taken place in the provision of a new mental hospital in the West Riding in the region of the Leeds Regional Hospital Board.

The Board proposes a new hospital for mentally sub-normal patients in the Wakefield area and will be considering its priority in preparing its long-term programme.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the location yet? Before the site is decided upon, will he have a geological report prepared?

Ministry Of Health

Dentist, Birmingham


asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the circumstances under which the Birmingham Executive Council has recommended that a dentist should have £1,000 of his fees withheld, and its comments about the circumstances which caused it so to recommend; and whether he will cause the name of the dentist concerned to be published.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has confirmed the recommendation sent to him by Birmingham Health Executive Council to stop £1,000 from the pay of a local dentist.

No, Sir; I am required by the Regulations to consider also the dentist's representations, which have still to be heard, and the advice of my Dental Advisory Committee.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on Saturday, we are told, this dentist was fined a further £200 in respect of another offence? How much longer are this man's patients to be left in complete ignorance of the sort of dentist who is attending them? Can this possibly be right? Can the Minister tell us of any other profession in the country in which a person who was found guilty of obtaining money for work that he had not done would not find himself in the criminal courts? Ought not the public to be protected?

I can take account only of facts which are brought to my attention in the appropriate way, and I can do so only in accordance with the regulations by which I am governed. However, it will be appreciated that these are withholdings for breach of contract with the executive council and not fines for offences.

What is the point of this anonymity? Surely there is nothing in the regulations which prevents the Minister making the name of the individual public?

It is not usual in cases where part of the payment under a contract is withheld for incomplete carrying out of a contract for the names of the parties to be disclosed.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I give notice that when the right hon. Gentleman has finished his deliberations I shall hope to raise the matter on the Adjournment?

Welfare Foods


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that, in a family in which there are a number of young children, such ailments as colds and measles commonly run through the whole family, and that in such a family the expense of the proposed extra prescription charge will be considerable, and will, in many cases, make the purchase of special foods, necessary for recuperation, impossible; and what steps he proposes to take to meet this hardship.

I would refer the hon. Member to the arrangements for preventing hardship set out in the National Assistance Board leaflet A.L.19, of which I am sending him a copy.

While we in this House understand about those arrangements, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is extremely difficult for some of these harassed mothers of families in these circumstances, or for the chronic sick, to take full advantage of the arrangements? Cannot he suggest something better to ease this real hardship?

I have no reason to think that under such circumstances as those to which the Question refers there would be a severe additional cost, or, if there were, that the arrangements to which I have referred would not avoid hardship as a result of it.


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that in 1956, at clinics in the borough of Barking, 34,000 tins of national dried milk were sold at 10½d. a tin, but that in 1957, when the price was raised to 2s. 4d. only 25,000 tins were sold; and, since the proposed introductions and increases of charges for welfare foods are likely to cause a similar fall in demand, nationally as well as locally, what special observation of the effect on the health of young children and nursing mothers he intends to institute.

I have no reason to think that the proposed charges for vitamin supplements will have adverse effects.

If the hon. Lady is really trying to look at this realistically, would she not agree that it is realistic to expect that some mothers—perhaps only a minority—will be less able or less willing to take up these welfare foods when they have to pay the full cost of them? Why should the children be penalised in those circumstances because the Government are making it more difficult rather than easier for the mothers to get the foods?

As I explained in the debate on the regulations, those mothers for whom the charges would impose hardship can have the vitamins supplied free, as they already have welfare milk.


asked the Minister of Health what is the percentage of mothers entitled to welfare foods in the city and county borough of Carlisle who take advantage of these facilities.

The uptake of vitamin supplements in Carlisle in 1960 was orange juice 44 per cent.; cod liver oil 11 per cent.; vitamin tablets 31 per cent.

While I am interested to hear from my hon. Friend's reply that so many of my constituents are following the example of my wife and myself, might I ask her whether she is aware that when I go to my constituency I see not, on the one hand, 40 per cent. healthy children and, on the other hand, 60 per cent. children suffering from rickets and scurvy because they do not happen to have had their welfare foods, but an entire population of healthy children? Will she and her right hon. Friend look at this whole question of welfare foods with a view, perhaps, to concentrating them on the real cases of hardship where there are large families, or even such circumstances as have just been mentioned by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg)?

Yes, Sir; that is the purpose of the present measures, that benefit shall be given where it is most needed. I am sure that the fact that my hon. Friend sees healthy children in his constituency is due to there being a wide variety of foods plentifully available.



asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in the constitution of the Chiropodists Board under the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act, 1960; whether he has received any communications complaining of delay in the preparation of the register of chiropodists in the manner prescribed by Section 2 of this Act; and if he will make a statement.

The Chiropodists Board will be appointed by the Council for the Professions Supplementary to Medicine, the Membership of which is not yet completed. I am glad to say that Sir Sidney Littlewood has agreed to serve as Chairman of the Council, and I hope to be able to announce the names of the other members very soon. I have received one complaint of delay.

While I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that at any rate one of my constituents who has had many years of service as a chiropodist is chafing at this delay, and when the board is established will he give my constituent an opportunity to establish himself on the register, which he is unable to do at the moment?

I am anxious to get on with this, but, as my hon. Friend will realise, it is the council which makes the appointments, and that has to be brought into existence first.

Is the Minister aware that the whole House has listened to his answer with great interest, for it shows, together with the Question, that his hon. Friend, at least in one or two things in medicine, has a progressive outlook and not a reactionary one?

I have yet to discover the aspects in which my hon. Friend's outlook is not progressive.

Royal Gwent Hospital


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that a report has been received by the Newport and East Monmouthshire Hospital Management Committee from their consultant surveyor stating that conditions at the twin operating theatres at the Royal Gwent Hospital are hazardous and are not up to safety standards; whether he is aware that the hospital management committee have protested to the Welsh Regional Hospital Board at delays in providing new theatres; and what action he intends to take to end the existing hazards.

I understand that one of the consultant surgeons expressed himself in this sense at a meeting of the committee. An officer from the Welsh Board of Health is to visit the theatres immediately with representatives of the Welsh Hospital Board, and report their conclusions.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that for more than six months the management committee has been pressing this problem with the Ministry? Why is it that we have had to wait until there has been a report which the chairman of the hospital management committee has rightly said will have a frightening effect on folk before the Ministry even takes the trouble to go there and inspect the actual circumstances?

It is true that the hospital management committee has been pressing this point. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are proposals for the rebuilding of the hospital. In the meantime, however, in view of the representations, the matter is being looked at very urgently.

Prescription Charges


asked the Minister of Health if he will estimate the loss of revenue which would result from exempting from payment of prescription charges all persons with incomes of £9 per week or less.

I have no means of estimating the number of prescriptions dispensed for these persons.

Is it not regrettable that this information should not be available? Is it beyond the scope of human—or, perhaps I should say, Ministerial ingenuity—to evolve a scheme which would exempt small income earners from paying prescription charges except through the machinery of the National Assistance Board?

That is a separate question. My hon. Friend's Question asked for an estimate. It is impossible to know the incomes of persons when prescriptions are dispensed for them or their dependants.


asked the Minister of Health if he has yet considered ways and means to ensure that those living on small means, but above the National Assistance scale, can be relieved from paying health charges.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has yet considered methods to relieve persons with small incomes from prescription charges, so as to obviate the necessity to claim from the National Assistance Board.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has yet worked out a scheme whereby those with small incomes may be relieved from paying prescription charges.


asked the Minister of Health if, following his further study of the problem, he will now exempt from the payment of prescription charges all persons who are not assessed for income tax in any year.

I am keeping under review the detailed working of present arrangements for the ascertainment and prevention of hardship, but I am satisfied that in principle those arrangements are on the right lines.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, whatever he thinks, a lot of people disagree with him? Quite a number of people in the Conservative Party disagree with him. May I ask him, therefore, whether he is consulting the Treasury to see whether some other arrangement cannot be made to deal with this very important and pressing question for those living on small fixed incomes?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I sent him particulars of a very proud old soldier—whose name cannot be given in public—whose total income from all sources, for himself and his wife, is £8 10s. a week? He pays rent of over £1 a week. The old lady has a weak heart and it is continually necessary for her to have prescriptions. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in his reply to me it was stated that this old soldier could have no assistance?

I will look or look again at the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). As my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) knows, alternative methods have been very carefully considered, but no method can be workable which imposes upon doctors or chemists the obligation of themselves assessing hardship or need.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although a great deal has been done through the National Assistance Board, it is my experience in my constituency that a number of people are still too proud to go to the National Assistance Board and, therefore, suffer in silence? I hope that my right hon. Friend, in conjunction with the Inland Revenue, will do something to work out a method, other than that through the National Assistance Board, for bringing relief to these people.

There are great difficulties in using taxable income as a standard of obtaining help in hardship in these cases, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance and I will certainly not close our minds to any practicable method of improving the existing procedure.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is some justification for assuming that most persons whose incomes are so low that they are not assessable for taxation should be relieved from paying these charges? Surely it should be possible, in conjunction with the Inland Revenue, to find some scheme which would exempt people who do not pay tax from paying prescription charges in future?

This question is primarily for the Treasury, but assessability for tax does not appear to afford a practicable method for giving immediate relief to people in these circumstances.

Does the right hon. Gentleman now realise the sense of the case put from this side of the House—that the whole idea of the increases in prescription charges was wrong? Now, apparently, just before the municipal elections, his hon. Friends are finding out the same thing.

Vaccination (International Certificates)


asked the Minister of Health if local medical practitioners are entitled under his regulations to charge for signing International Certificates of Vaccination; and whether any recommendations have been issued regarding the insistence by some doctors on fees for this purpose.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes" and to the second "No."

Does not the hon. Lady agree that it is rather mean for a doctor to charge for his signature on this document, which must be produced to prove vaccination, since otherwise the person concerned cannot go abroad? Will she recommend doctors called upon to vaccinate persons to add their signature without charge?

This certificate is not one that a doctor is required to give under the National Health Service, and the matter of the charge, therefore, is a private arrangement between patient and doctor and not one in which my right hon. Friend could take action.

Does not the hon. Lady think, however, that to charge for this signature is mean? Is it not the case that those of us who are asked to sign documents make no charges—indeed, do not wish to make charges? As doctors are quite well paid, is not this charge unnecessary?

This is a transaction which is outside the National Health Service, and I am afraid that I cannot comment on it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

United Nations Charter (Article 54)


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will publish a list, with dates, of reports submitted by regional agencies to the Security Council in accordance with Article 54 of the United Nations Charter.

The United Nations have not published a composite list of these reports. Details of the communications to the Security Council made under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter are contained in the Repertoire of Security Council Practice and in the annual reports of the Security Council to the General Assembly; copies of these United Nations documents are in the Library of the House.

Is it perfectly clear that it is not possible for a regional agency, such as the Organisation of American States, for example, to operate sometimes under Articles 52 to 54 and be subject to the Security Council, and at other times under Article 51 and not be subject to the Security Council? Is it not time that there was proper registration so that the Security Council could know what its responsibilities were?

I would have thought that the position was perfectly clear under Articles 52 to 54. As the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) pointed out the other day, under Article 52 (4) it is always possible for the matter to go before the Security Council, so that there is a safeguard against any abuse in that form by regional organisations.

Can the Under-Secretary say whether the Organisation of American States made any report to the Security Council about the Guatemala case in 1954?

Mr Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn

3.30 p.m.

I have a statement to make to the House.

I have been informed in the ordinary way that Mr. Wedgwood Benn desires to take his seat. My task is correctly to discharge the duty of the Chair as the servant of the House. The Resolution of the House of 13th April is binding upon on me and means, in my judgment, that I cannot, as the servant of the House, allow Mr. Benn to be admitted to the Chamber unless the House otherwise orders. The directions which I have given to the Serjeant at Arms are in accordance with that view of my duty.

I have received a letter from Mr. Benn in the following terms:

"8th May, 1961."

Dear Mr. Speaker,

On Friday last, in Bristol, the Returning Officer, acting in pursuance of an Order of this House for a fresh election, made a Statutory Declaration that I had been duly elected to represent the constituency of Bristol, South-East in the present Parliament.

Just after Prayers this afternoon, on my way to the Bar of the House, I was stopped at the door and informed that you, Mr. Speaker, had given instructions that physical force should, if necessary, be used to prevent my entering.

As a duly elected Member of Parliament I request you to countermand that order for which I can find no parallel in Parliamentary history.

I ask to be heard at the Bar as to why I should be permitted to take the Oath following my election by an overwhelming majority of the people of Bristol, South-East, whose servant I am.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Wedgwood Benn."

Whether or no Mr. Benn should be heard at the Bar is a matter for the decision of the House and not for me.

It is probably convenient that I should say something else. I have been informed that an election petition has been presented. The issue before the Election Court will be, I suppose—I have not seen the petition and I wish to reserve my view—

"… whether the member whose election or return is complained of, or any and what other person, was duly returned or elected or whether the election was void …"

I quote from Section 124 (1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1949.

Our rule is that matters awaiting the adjudication of a court of law should not be brought forward in debate. It would seem to me virtually impossible to discuss the matters arising in this case if the rule be strictly adhered to. The object of the rule is to prevent prejudice. [ Interruption.] I hope that the House will listen. As the Court will consist of judges and will, I suppose, be concerned almost exclusively with matters of law, it seems very difficult to see how any prejudice can arise to any party from a discussion of these matters in the House, and my suggestion to the House would be that, since this is a matter relating solely to our constitution, we should by common consent waive the application of the rule to this day's debate relating to Mr. Benn's case.

3.35 p.m.

I am sure that we are all very much obliged to you for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and that we accept that you have given it as the servant of the House, as you say. We are all grateful to you for saying that we should not be out of order in discussing matters later this afternoon without prejudice and without regarding the matter before us as necessarily as being sub judice, to use the classic phrase. I think that that will help our later debate. We are very much obliged to you.

You have stated, Mr. Speaker that Mr. Benn's being heard at the Bar is a matter for the decision of the House. As Leader of the House, I should, therefore, like, with your permission, to attempt to give the House the following guidance. There are two issues: first, whether Mr. Benn should be heard; and, secondly, a substantive Motion, which I wish to move, as Leader of the House, relating to the eligibilty of Mr. Benn and the major issue to which you yourself have referred. I understand that the Opposition wish to debate the major issue. I also understand, from notice which I have received from him, that the Leader of the Opposition wishes to move an immediate Motion that Mr. Benn be heard.

This may lead to some duplication in debate, but, nevertheless, it would be much better that both questions should be separated, and I will most willingly give way to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to permit him to move a Motion in any terms he may feel inclined in relation to the hearing of Mr. Benn. I suggest, for the convenience of the House, that we might dispose of that, I hope within a reasonable time, and then come to the major subject upon which, I am sure, the House wishes to express an opinion and upon which, with your permission, I shall move a substantive Motion. With that understanding, I give way to the Leader of the Opposition.

3.37 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that you have decided that, despite the petition to the Election Court, we may nevertheless discuss this matter. The Leader of the House having given notice of a Motion which he will move, I had better give notice that, if that Motion is in the terms which I rather suspect it will be, we shall be moving an Amendment to it.

Meanwhile, I accept the invitation of the Leader of the House and I beg to move,
That Mr. Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn be admitted in and heard.
I regret, Mr. Speaker, that you felt it necessary to make the Ruling that you gave about Mr. Benn taking his seat, and that on the basis of the same argument you felt obliged to give instructions that Mr. Benn should be stopped from entering the Chamber, for it is this decision of yours which makes it necessary for me to move the Motion which I have just moved.

I could have wished—and I say this without disrespect at all and recognising to the full the great care which you have given to this question—that you had followed the example of Mr. Speaker Peel who, after Mr. Bradlaugh's fourth election as Member for Northampton, said:
"I know nothing of the Resolutions of the past. They have lapsed, they are void, they are of no effect in reference to this case. It is the right, the legal statutable obligation, of Members, when returned to this House, to come to this Table and take the Oath prescribed by Statute. I have no authority, I have no right, original or delegated, to interfere between an hon. Member and his taking of the Oath."
Those were Mr. Speaker Peel's words on another famous occasion.

Nevertheless, you have ruled, Sir, and, of course, we must accept that Ruling, though I add at once Chat I was glad that you made it perfectly plain that your Ruling applied only so long as the Resolution of 13th April held good, and that it was for the House to decide whether it wished to change its opinion; and, of course, that will be the subject of the later debate this afternoon.

What I am now arguing is that before the House takes this important decision, before it debates the substantive Motion which the Government are to move and the Amendment which we shall move, Mr. Wedgwood Benn should be allowed to come to the Bar and make his case.

It is not necessary for me to argue at any length on his behalf that he should be allowed here, because I think that the case for permitting him to do so is an overwhelming one. On this side of the House, whatever view hon. Gentlemen may take on the major issue, we feel that it is utterly wrong to prevent a person in Mr. Benn's position from having the opportunity of telling us why he believes that he should be allowed to take the oath.

On 13th April, on a similar Motion, I argued that all the precedents were in favour of allowing Mr. Benn to speak, and I quoted then the case of Daniel O'Connell, in 1829, who, having been returned as the Member of Parliament for Clare, came to this House and was unwilling to take the oath of supremacy which was at that time required. He was not allowed to take his seat because he refused to take the oath of supremacy, but he was allowed to come to the Bar and address the House, and his speech, so we are told, made a very deep impression.

Charles Bradlaugh in 1880, in 1881, in 1882 and in 1883 came to this House as the elected Member for Northampton and was not allowed on the first three occasions to take his seat, but he was allowed to address the House from the Bar. Indeed, nobody suggested that he should be restrained from doing so. There was unanimity on this issue, and I cannot understand why the Leader of the House and his hon. Friends refuse even this very limited courtesy to Mr. Benn.

There is another case which is extremely relevant to our discussion this afternoon, the case of Mr. MacManaway who was returned in 1950 as the Member for Belfast, West. His right to sit here was challenged. It was referred to a Select Committee. It was referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but, while that reference was made, and while the Judicial Committee was considering it, Mr. MacManaway was not merely allowed to come into the House and address it; he was allowed to take his seat and speak as an ordinary Member. [HON. MEMBERS: "And to vote."] Yes, as my hon. Friends say, he was allowed to vote as well.

That case, I venture to say, is particularly relevant because of the petition which we understand has been submitted to the Election Court. In precisely the same way as Mr. MacManaway's case may have been said to be sub judice when it was being considered by the highest court in the land, the Privy Council, so Mr. Benn's case is now to be considered by the courts. It is sub judice. If it was right and proper that pending a judicial decision of this kind Mr. MacManaway should be allowed to take his seat here, then it is right that Mr. Benn should be allowed to take his seat.

It would have been possible at that time, in fact quite easy, for the Labour Government to have taken a different line and to have moved a Motion preventing Mr. MacManaway from taking his seat. They would have had certain advantages in doing so, because the majority which they had was a very narrow one and it was a moment when the difference between victory and defeat was a matter of two or three votes. The majority was, I think, six originally, but, nevertheless, the Labour Government did not do so. They allowed Mr. MacManaway to take his seat. I suggest that the Government today should follow our example in 1950.

It may be argued, and probably will, by the right hon. Gentleman that the House decided on 13th April that Mr. Benn should not be admitted and heard, and that, therefore, there is nothing new for Mr. Benn to argue on his own behalf. If that is the view of the right hon. Gentleman, he seems to me to be forgetting that a rather important event has happened since then. Mr. Wedgwood Benn has been elected as the Member for Bristol, South-East, with a majority of over 13,000, more than double the majority he had at the General Election, and his opponent's vote has been halved. Are the Government telling us that that is of no significance whatever?

Mr. Benn holds today, as his letter to you makes clear, a statutory declaration of the Returning Officer saying that he is elected to serve as a Member of Parliament. It would be absolutely wrong for the House of Commons to neglect this very important change. Have not the electors of Bristol, South-East made their view of the situation overwhelmingly clear, and are the Government really going to say to us after this that they will not even allow Mr. Benn to come to the Bar and make his case?

Of course, it may be that the Government take the view that the result of the by-election in Bristol, South-East has a different significance. Perhaps they believe that it was not the result of Mr. Benn's desire to renounce his peerage which led the electors to give him such an overwhelming majority. It may well be that the Government suppose that this is something quite different and that it reflects the sincere opinions of the electorate about the Tory Government as a whole, but, if that is the case, right hon. Gentlemen opposite have no right at all to be sitting there, much less to prevent Mr. Benn from coming into the House. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite must make up their minds. They can have it either way. Either the electorate returned Mr. Benn because they wanted him to be their Member and they totally disagree with the obstruction which the Government are putting in their way, or they returned him because they want to get rid of the Government altogether.

In these last days many people have been asking themselves how it is that the Government have adopted the attitude they do adopt. There has been much speculation, and there is a very revealing article, by Mr. Douglas Clark, in this morning's Daily Express, part of which I should like to read to the House. Mr. Clark says:
"When Mr. Wedgwood Benn, conquering hero of the Bristol by-election, knocks on the door of the House of Commons today you may be sure he will find the Government standing firmly by its dog-in-the-manger slogan: 'He shall not pass!'
Why so? What accounts for the stubbornness of Ministers? They must know by now that public opinion overwhelmingly favours changing the law to enable peers to sit in the Commons if they so wish. They know, too, that with Government steam behind it this single reform could be put on the Statute Book in weeks. So why the insistence on delay?"
After a little further consideration, Mr. Clark says:
"And some of them think they have found it—in the able, brilliantly attractive, roly-poly figure of Lord Hailsham, Lord President of the Council. They are asking: Could it be Hailsham, rather than Benn, whom the Government is seeking to suppress?"
I wish to make it plain that I am not suggesting that Lord Hailsham should take his seat in the Commons this afternoon, or that he should even speak at the Bar of the House this afternoon. The Government need not fear that terrifying prospect; all that we are asking is that MR. Benn should be allowed to speak at the Bar.

There has been another change which we must take into account. On the last occasion when the House considered a similar Motion I am glad to say that a number of hon. Members opposite supported us in the Lobby. Most of them could be said to come from what one would describe as the Left of the Conservative Party. [Laughter.] I said that "most of them" could be said to come from the Left. I dare say that a few of those who were good enough to vote with us on that occasion would be a little upset if such an epithet were applied to them. If so, I did not mean them; I meant the others.

Be that as it may, there is now a powerful reinforcement for the point of view which those hon. Members supported. No less a person than the Marquess of Salisbury has spoken out. He has said:
"I think there is a case for exceptional treatment of a peer with a career in the Commons behind him."
I must admit that the thought crossed my mind that Lord Salisbury's attitude in this matter might have been influenced by his feelings about one of his colleagues, with whom he has lately been in some controversy—the noble Lord to whom I have just referred—and that in the back of his mind was the idea that if the law were changed Lord Hailsham might, after all, come back to the House of Commons and not remain in the House of Lords. In any event, the Marquess of Salisbury is moving in the right direction.

The Marquess of Salisbury has made another very interesting comment, which is most relevant to our debate this afternoon. He has said, referring to the Select Committee which the Government are setting up to advise on a reform of the Lords, that if the Labour Party refuses to sit on it the Government might prefer to drop the idea and tackle the immediate difficulty on their own. I welcome the noble Marquess as an ally to that extent, at any rate.

Are the Government frightened of what Mr. Benn might say if he speaks at the Bar of the House? I yield to no one in my regard for the talents, as a Parliamentarian, of my one-time hon. Friend, now Mr. Benn, but I do not think that even he could add or need add much to the evidence given by the votes cast in the by-election at Bristol, South-East. The point is that he has a case—a case which he himself should be allowed to argue—and to refuse to allow him to do this is, in our opinion, an arbitrary use of a majority power.

I end with this appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. The Government know very well that they are in an impossible position in this matter. They are defending the indefensible by arguments which, when not obscure, are obscurantist. Public opinion is overwhelmingly against them. The right hon. Gentleman should give up playing the part of King Canute. It is not a character which he is well suited to play. It is time he began to retreat. Let him start now, with a concession that may be no more than courtesy but is, none the less, important for that. Let him start by giving a hearing to a man who has fought hard to rid himself of what he regards as an unfair disability simply because of the affection and esteem in which he holds this House of Commons.

I ask the Leader of the House to remove the gag and to allow Mr Benn to present his own case. The requirements of common justice and fair play, backed overwhelmingly by public opinion, support this. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to have the grace to give way.

3.57 p.m.

I do not think that anyone would be in doubt about the concluding words of the Leader of the Opposition. The esteem in which the Housse of Commons is held by past, present and future Members is not doubted. I have no doubt whatever that behind the debate that is taking place on whether Mr. Benn should be heard there is deep and sensitive feeling about the House of Commons, and I would hasten to add that there will be nothing personal whatever in any of the remarks that I propose to make in my speech in which I shall say that I think it undesirable that Mr. Benn should be heard—for constitutional reasons which I shall put forward. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The right hon. Gentleman was heard quietly.

Many of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments were relevant to the main debate which is to follow this one. I shall be dealing with all his references to the future in my next speech. Following up his words, I shall be able to show that it is the record of the Conservative Party, and of my right hon. and hon. Friends, to be ever ready to reform the House of Lords, and that if there has been any holding back it has been on the part of the Socialist Party. I would give as a typical example, in relation to the article which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, written by Mr. Douglas Clark, that if Mr. Attlee—as he then was—had given a favourable response to Lord Hailsham we might have had him here now. I can tell Mr. Clark that nobody would have been happier than we would to have had Lord Hailsham with us in the House at the present time.

The major part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was related to the major issues, with which I propose to deal in the Motion which, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I propose to move later. I shall show that we are looking to the future, and that the possibility of a change in the law to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is not at all excluded. There is every possibility that there may be a change in the law, but it is not just a matter of weeks, as Mr. Clark says. It may take a certain time. The law must be revised by both Houses, and it must be carefully considered, and the necessary Bill will have to go through all its stages. Subject to that, the speech I shall make after this will show that we on this side are looking to the future in a more sensible and practical way than right hon. and hon. Members opposite.

The simple issue before us now, although an important issue, is whether Mr. Benn should be heard. I use the courtesy title, Mr. Benn, following upon your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, although he is, in fact, Lord Stansgate.

We have already discussed once, on 13th April, the question whether Mr. Benn should be heard at the Bar, and the House decided that he should not be heard. The reasons for his not being heard then were valid and convincing. They were, first, that he had been heard before the Committee of Privileges. He was heard at great length. His own witnesses and friends were heard by the Committee of Privileges on purpose. The whole of his case is recorded in the Committee of Privileges Report.

I went to speak in the South-East Bristol by-election. [Laughter.] I believe in taking part in the conflict and not being frightened of doing so. I explained to the electors of South-East Bristol, who seemed to be rather stunned by my speech, the number of pages in the Select Committee's Report—which I have here—which are occupied with the evidence given by Mr. Benn, by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) and by Mr. Dick Taverne. I was able to explain the position without unduly stunning the electors—as I would have done if I had read the whole lot, since it occupies over one-third of the Report. Mr. Benn's evidence is recorded and published in the Report, and to that extent Mr. Benn has been heard.

I made it clear on 13th April that there was no precedent for affording him the facility of addressing the House from the Bar in a case of this sort. I shall review again shortly—as I do not want this debate to keep us too long from the major debate—the precedents quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. The Opposition, through the right hon. Gentleman, have formally renewed their request that Mr. Benn should be heard now that he has topped the poll in the South-East Bristol by-election. Before I say any more, I should like to examine the constitutional position. It is true that Mr. Benn obtained the majority of votes for South-East Bristol, but that fact does not operate to remove any disqualification he may have as an M.P.

The House will remember two recent occasions in recent years—in 1955, to be exact—when Irish Members were elected Members of this House, but the fact of their election did not make them qualified to sit. It is true that they had less reputable disqualifications than Mr. Benn. His disqualification, judging from the Report of the Committee, is that he is a peer, and that on becoming a peer he ceases to be a Member of this House. Not only have we the Report of the Committee of Privileges; we also have the Resolution of this House on 13th April upon which you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled, and on which we think that you have rightly ruled, and we certainly accept your Ruling.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to new facts which have emerged since that date. Only two new facts have emerged since that date. First, the election result; and, secondly, that an election petition has been presented. My answer to that is that if Mr. Benn was a peer on 13th April, and if, on 18th April—I hope that the House will note this.—the Opposition Chief Whip moved that a new Writ should be issued for the election of someone in Mr. Benn's room, inviting us to enter into an election to elect someone in his place, so far as I can see nothing has happened since then not to make him a peer. In fact, a peer he is. You, Mr. Speaker, have rightly ruled that he cannot take his place following upon the Resolution of 13th April, and I hope, shortly, to move a Motion in support of the Ruling which you have given.

If the Election Court comes to a different conclusion from the House of Commons, what happens then?

Mr. Butler