House Of Commons
Tuesday, 20th November, 1962
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Civil Service (Pensions)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the extra cost in 1963–64 of counting pre-1949 service in full in calculating Civil Service pensions.
Seven and a half million pounds in respect of both continuing pensions and lump sums, and a further sum up to £24 million if lump sum payments already made were reassessed.
Now that a slightly More generous attitude appears to be prevailing at the Treasury, would it not be a good idea to take the opportunity of doing this in conjunction with the other measures to increase Civil Service pensions?
I do not think so, because at the time when this service was rendered there was no expectation that it would be allowed to count for more than half its length on subsequent establishment. Although the hon. Member refers to the extra cost in 1963–64, we would have to consider the total continuing cost, which would be about £300 million.
Members Of Parliament (Press Cuttings Service)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the approximate annual cost of a Press cuttings service for Members of Parliament, employing eight assistants; and if he will consider providing such a service.
Six thousand pounds. The introduction of a Press cuttings service is a matter for the House authorities in the first place.
Would not this be a small sum to pay for the better working of Members of Parliament, Parliament itself and democracy? If serious newspapers are not expected to function without such a Press cuttings service, surely Parliament should not be expected to do so? Does not the hon. Member think that the dice are loaded against private Members of Parliament, who have no such assistance, whereas Ministers not only have a Press cuttings service but staffs of expert civil servants to brief them?
I am sure that the dice are not loaded against the hon. Member. As I mentioned in my original Answer, this is a matter for the House authorities in the first place. Certainly on the information which I have at the moment I feel very doubtful whether we should be justified in incurring this additional cost at the expense of the taxpayer.
Will my hon. Friend investigate an anomaly in this field? Whereas a Member of Parliament who has a Press cuttings service personally is not allowed to charge the cost of it against his Schedule E Income Tax assessment, he can so charge it against Schedule D, as a self-employed person, if he is participating in television, radio and journalistic activities.
I will look into my hon. Friend's personal case and write to him about it.
I do both. That is the point.
The hon. Member says that this is the matter for the House to consider first. Is he aware that when the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) was Chancellor of the Exchequer he promised to give serious consideration to the purchase of the News Chronicle Press Service for use as a pooled service available to the 24 Government Departmental libraries and the House of Commons Library? Can the hon. Member say what happened to that consideration?
That is another matter, which I will look into. I will write to the hon. Member about it.
In spite of the amusement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will he bear in mind that Members of Parliament, as such, are not entitled even to charge the expense of books, including reference books, or any form of information which they may require in relation to their duties? When I was in active practice as a solicitor all this could be charged to my office.
Against Schedule D.
This applies to a great many things. Will the Minister look into the matter? It is an astonishing fact that I can take a client to dine in the House of Commons, if that client has no special connection with the House, but that if the Mayor of Oldham dines with me the cost is not allowable.
In general, the attitude of the Inland Revenue to these matters is very reasonable. I cannot be expected to answer these supplementary questions on a Question which has nothing whatever to do with tax allowances for Members of Parliament.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many places he expects will be provided in universities by 1966.
The target is 150,000 places in the academic year 1966–67.
In view of the continuing dissatisfaction of a number of universities with the grants announced earlier this year, despite the 20 per cent. increase in the building grant, is the hon. Gentleman certain that this target can be achieved? Is he not aware, further, that if it is achieved it will be totally inadequate, because it is clear that at least 185,000 students will be looking for places? In view of this fact, will not he reverse the disastrous policy of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), of awaiting the report of the Robbins Committee and, instead, announce at once a further measure of expansion in our universities?
No, Sir. We would be wise to await the report of the Robbins Committee. As for the target of 150,000 places, we certainly expect to reach it.
12 and 13.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what are his latest estimates, as advised by the University Grants Committee, on the total number of university places required in the next five years to meet increasing needs and demands; and how far these estimates provide for an increasing proportion of sixth formers to enter universities:(2) in the light of the experience of the last few months which shows an increasing number of potential university students unable to secure university places, if he will reconsider the level of university grants so as to provide for a more rapid increase in the number of places.
I have nothing to add to the targets of student numbers already announced by the Government and the statements on this matter and the level of grants made by my right hon. Friend the former Chief Secretary and by myself.
Does not the Treasury study the experience from year to year? Is not the Financial Secretary aware of the grave and widespread disappointment among potential students for university places? Is he aware of the increasing demand for university places and the fact that a large number who had many advance passes at G.C.E. level and applied to get into a university at the end of the last academic year were unable to do so because the Government had reduced the expansion of the number of places? Has not that been studied?
I fear that there will always be some potential students who will not be successful. Of course we recognise the increasing demand for places at universities. For this reason we have decided that over the next five years we shall set a target of 150,000 places, which is a 35 per cent. increase on 1961.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this target, according to the vice-chancellors of universities, will not even be reached? Is he aware that the target is far too low and that even by 1970 there will be young men and women fully and well qualified to enter universities who will be knocking at the door and there will be no room for them? Does that not worry the Government?
As I said in answer to an earlier Question, we expect to reach the target. I ask the hon. Lady to bear in mind that when considering the expansion of higher education we must consider not only the places in universities but also the large number of additional places which we shall be providing in colleges of advanced technology and teacher training colleges?
Does not the Minister think it rather farcical that the Government should be so complacent about this matter? Is not he aware that, according to figures supplied by his own Department, the ratio is 1–19 of the relevant age groups for university places and that in five years' time it will me 1–22? Is not that rather disgusting?
If one takes into account the numbers we expect in all the spheres of higher education in five years' time, the proportion entering higher education will have increased, I estimate, by at least another 1 per cent.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce legislation to control the financial policies of building societies.
Is not this one of the major sectors in the economy in which the public interest has no control? Does it not interfere with my right hon. Friend's policy of lowering interest rates, and is he satisfied with this position?
As I think my hon. Friend will remember, because I think he was a Member of the Committee which considered it, the Building Societies Bill, which we passed in 1960, introduced a fundamental change in the law governing the accounts and audits of building societies, which I think has proved to be generally satisfactory. With regard to interest rates, in the end I think the rates of interest on mortgages must remain a matter for settlement between a society and its borrowers, because, apart from other matters, the circumstances of individual societies vary.
Is it not a fact that a major plank of Conservative policy is home ownership, and is it not pretty serious in these days for young people who want to buy their own homes to find that they cannot do so because of the very high rates of interest for mortgages?
I recognise the difficulties to which my hon. Friend refers, but I do not think the right way to tackle them would be to do something which, if carried to its logical conclusion, would amount almost to the nationalisation of the building societies.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce legislation to control the rates of interest charged on mortgages by building societies.
Why do the Government continue to ignore the harsh burden of high mortgage interest on one of the thriftiest sections of the population, a rate of interest which goes up very quickly on the slightest provocation and comes down all too slowly? Will the hon. Gentleman at least commend the two or three building societies which, disregarding the advice of the Building Societies Association and following the good example of the Public Works Loan Board, have recently reduced their charges?
As I said, in the end the decision on these matters must rest with individual societies because they have to take into account their own local circumstances and financial position.
Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the rates of interest recommended by the Building Societies Association have kept pace with the reduction in the Bank rate?
That is not a matter for me as a member of the Government to answer.
The Minister said that it is not a matter for him, but does he not realise that the rates at present charged by the building societies are frustrating the Government's stated intention of encouraging home ownership? Therefore, is it not a matter for him when some building societies reduce the rate of interest and others do not? Does it not warrant some inquiry from him as to the reasons?
I am delighted, and I am sure my right hon. Friend is delighted, when any particular society is able to reduce its rate of interest, but it is absolute nonsense to suggest that the Government are not encouraging home ownership and that a considerable increase in home ownership is not taking place. To say so is to ignore the facts.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now take steps to implement the undertaking given by Her Majesty's Government to abolish liability to Income Tax, Schedule A, in 1963–64 for owner-occupiers of dwelling houses.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on 6th November to the Question asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke).
Would my right hon. Friend assure the House that he is on the same wavelength as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)? Does he propose to honour and implement fully the undertaking given by the previous Chancellor that Income Tax, Schedule A, as applicable to domestic hereditaments only, will be totally abolished in 1963–64? That is the nub of the matter, and my right hon. Friend did not answer that specific point before.
I answered it precisely in the Answer to which I have referred.
Steel Company Of Wales (Sale Of Stock)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the £25 million Steel Company of Wales 5¾ per cent. second debenture stock was offered at 88½ per cent. in view of the fact that it is redeemable at 102 per cent.; how much loss this sale will show on the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency's books; and if he will make a statement.
The offer for sale of this stock was made by the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency in accordance with its statutory duty to secure the return of the steel industry to private ownership. Prior to the sale the Agency's book value of their investment in the company amounted to £27·025 million. The gross proceeds of the present offer will amount to £22·125 million.
Why should the Agency accept this big loss—that is the Question which I put—if there is any chance of Bank Rate coming down in the near future and of this stock being offered at a much higher price than at the big discount of 11½ points, at which it was put on the market? Why should the taxpayer pay all this money?
I cannot comment on future movements of Bank Rate, but this stock was offered at market value, and I think that market experience since has proved that it was about the right figure.
Will not the Chancellor answer the question why this stock was put on the market at this time, considering that the Act has been on the Statute Book for nine years? Why choose this moment to involve the taxpayer in a substantial loss?
The loss did not arise on the sale. The loss had already arisen because the market value had fallen. The Agency has a statutory duty progressively to dispose of the nationalised holdings, and this it is doing.
If there is any chance at all within a reasonable time of Bank Rate being reduced, this stock could have been offered, if not at par, at least at a smaller rate of interest? If the Chancellor is saying that conditions are such that Bank Rate will not be reduced, we must accept it as a somewhat unnecessary sacrifice by the taxpayers.
I do not think the Agency should speculate on future movements of Bank Rate.
Iron And Steel Holding And Realisation Agency
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are Her Majesty's Government's proposals for the future of the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency.
I have no statement to make on this matter at present.
Cannot the Chancellor tell us for how much longer he expects this organisation to go on operating at the public expense?
No, Sir. There is work still for it to do, and I do not think that at this moment I can anticipate when it will be completed.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the revised estimated yield of Purchase Tax in 1962–63; and how much yield is expected in that year from each, respectively, of the 10 per cent., 15 per cent., 25 per cent., and 45 per cent. rates of Purchase Tax, all figures expressed after the reduction of Purchase Tax on motorcars from 45 per cent. to 25 per cent.
The revised Purchase Tax estimate for 1962–63 is £597 million. The anticipated yields from the individual rates requested by the hon. Member are £157 million; £30 million; £199 million and £211 million, respectively.
Would my right hon. Friend consider the special position which now arises with those manufactured goods which remain on the 45 per cent. rate of Purchase Tax since he removed motor cars from it? Does he not regard, for instance, radios, television sets, cosmetics, and gramophones and discs as having an equally relative export potential as motor cars, and why should these important products be left out on a limb at the highest rates, while motor cars have been preferred by my right hon. Friend?
I explained to the House my reasons for the special move in the case of motor cars, which I think was fully justified. As far as the other items on the 45 per cent. rate are con- corned, I shall be reviewing the whole Purchase Tax situation in connection with my forthcoming Budget.
Jolly good. I shall ask my right hon. Friend a lot more Questions about that.
Standard Of Living
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made since 1954 towards doubling the nation's standard of living within 25 years.
Between 1954 and 1961, the rise of real personal disposable income per head, which is the best statistical definition of the standard of living, has been at the rate of 3·3 per cent. per annum. This is a somewhat faster rate than would be required to double the standard of living in 25 years.
While I am sure that the Government are to be congratulated from all sides of the House, may I ask if my right hon. Friend does not agree that if this target is to be achieved one essential is that hon. Members opposite should remain opposite?
That is, I think, demonstrable.
Is the Chancellor aware that the target which he has set up for "Neddy" will not maintain a rate of growth sufficient to double the standard of living in 25 years?
This question was concerned with the experience between 1954–61, and as I was not responsible at that period, I can happily say it was very good.
Do not these figures show how unwise it is to rely on statistics in determining whether people are feeling better off or not? How does the Chancellor account for the fact that if we have "never had it so good" there is a widespread feeling in the country that conditions are exceedingly difficult, especially for certain groups of people who have never had it so bad, including the unemployed and the old-age pensioners?
Of course, in any general average, there are bound to be particular areas of the country or sections of people who are not up to that average, but this Question was about the average, and I have given an accurate Answer.
Government Expenditure (Public Services)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the increased spending on public services of 9 per cent. this year and of a further 9 per cent. next year as foreshadowed in Command Paper No. 1849, and the expected increase of national production of only 3 per cent. each year, what new steps he proposes to take to avoid further inflation; and if he will make a statement.
The increase in expenditure to which my hon. Friend refers relates to investment in the public services, not to total expenditure on these services. The Government took the decision to authorise this increase in expenditure after considering the ability of the economy to absorb it without inflationary consequences.
Does not the Chancellor agree that more than half of this capital expenditure shown on page 5 will be non-productive work? Does it mean that the Government, by accepting this, are accepting inflation as inevitable?
No, Sir; certainly not. We thought, in view of the prospects for 1963, we could without danger of inflation increase public investment, particularly on such things as housing and schools, where I think it is very much needed.
But if my right hon. Friend expects national productivity to increase only by that 3 per cent., at the most, if we are to spend 9 per cent. more on special items of non-productive work, surely it must result in inflation?
We have to take all claims on the national economy together, and I think we can safely accommodate this increase without inflationary pressure.
Motor Cars (Tax Reduction)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what study he made, before taking his decision to cut Purchase Tax on cars by 20 per cent., of the likely effect of this on the annual deficit of British Railways.
Before reaching my decision, I took into account all relevant factors.
Would the Chancellor say, then, what in fact was the result of his consideration, vis-à-vis the railways, because surely the task which the Government has set Dr. Beeching is difficult enough as it is and this decision will make it even more difficult?
After my consideration, I came to the conclusion that the possible effect on the railways should not deter me from doing the right thing in the case of motor cars.
Treasury Staff (Day Release Classes)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer in view of his Department's responsibilities for training in the Civil Service, why fewer than half the juveniles in the Treasury are attending day release classes.
Every encouragement is given to Treasury staff under age 18 to attend day release classes. Attendance is, of course, largely voluntary, but we are constantly seeking to increase it.
Cannot the hon. Gentleman do better? Should we not expect the right hon. Gentleman's Department to set a better example to other Departments and to stimulate day release classes? How is it that some Departments can manage 80 per cent. to 100 per cent. day releases while the Service Departments are below two-thirds?
There are special reasons for the figures within the Treasury. It is because the type of officer we employ there is somewhat different from those in other Departments—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are doing everything we can to increase the proportion of those who do attend day release classes and that our objective is the same as his.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how the people employed in his Department differ from those in other Departments? Can he also tell us whether he is satisfied that it is his duty not only to release those who voluntarily go to these classes but to shove and to push people into wanting to go and making it much easier for them to take advantage of the classes?
The position is that in most other Departments there is a large proportion of what I might call "junior executive officers". In the Treasury we have a very high proportion in the age groups to which the hon. Gentleman refers of typists and other people who, although they do not attend day release classes, do attend evening classes. Therefore, there is an explanation for the difference in the figures between the Treasury and other Departments.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a survey of what products, needed by the developing countries of the world, can be manufactured by under-utilised resources in central Scotland.
In considering loan applications from developing countries it is certainly my intention that we should take into account, among other considerations, the extent to which the loan could be spent on products for which spare capacity exists in the economy, whether in central Scotland or elsewhere. But I do not consider that any special surveys are necessary for this purpose.
When considering this problem, will the right hon. Gentleman pay special attention to the needs of the papermaking industry in relation to the request of the Delhi Report for paper for educational purposes in the developing countries?
I will certainly look at any suggestion such as that.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will arrange to make any changes in the rates of Purchase Tax on footwear in February or August, instead of April, in accordance with the proposals of which details have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Poole.
No, Sir. I could not undertake an obligation to do this.
Will my right hon. Friend view the problem with more sympathy if I send him more evidence?
I will certainly try to do so, but to preclude myself from action in the Budget on Purchase Tax would be very difficult.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether he ought to have any Purchase Tax at all on boots and shoes when he has reduced Purchase Tax on motor cars?
I shall naturally consider all aspects of Purchase Tax between now and the Budget.
Universities (Staff-Student Ratio)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assistance he plans to give the University Grants Committee so that the recent deterioration in the university staff-student ratio in the pure and applied sciences may he checked, and a ratio more comparable with pre-1939 standards attained.
The Government have undertaken to review the level of grant in 1964. They will then have the benefit of the Report of the Robbins Committee on Higher Education and will be in a position to assess the development of the present expansion programme the level of grants for which, as explained by my right hon. Friend the former Chief Secretary, has been assessed primarily with the aim of increasing student numbers.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the University Grants Cornmittee says that staffing compared with 1938–39 is 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. under what it ought to be? How does he expect to be able to reach the target he has set himself without diluting the quality of teaching if he does not get the staff required for this purpose?
I do not think one can pass judgment on this mattes by a comparison with what happened in 1939, as the hon. Gentleman did in his Question and in his supplementary question. After all, since then there have been great changes, for example, in the number of students, the methods of teaching and in graduate and post-graduate work research, all of which is bound to affect the student-teacher relationship.
If the hon. Gentleman does not like the period 1938–39, will he accept the period 1955–56, where the science ratio is still declining?
Obviously this is a matter which is highly relevant, and we bear it in mind. But I would remind the hon. Gentleman that expansion plans already announced involve an increase in public expenditure on universities from £116 million in 1961–62 to something over £160 million in 1966–67.
Decimal Coinage System
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in view of the present Common Market negotiations, he will make an early decision about the proposed change to a decimal system of currency.
I think we should await the report of the Halsbury Committee.
Is not it regrettable that this decision has been delayed for so long? Is it impossible for the Committee to give some interim advice to enable my right hon. Friend to come to an earlier decision?
We hope that the Committee will be in a position to report early next year.
Public Works Loan Board (Interest Rates)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will authorise a reduction in the rate of interest charged by the Public Works Loan Board to local authorities who wish to borrow money.
These rates are determined by the rates at which local authorities can borrow in the market.
That is just the reply which I anticipated I should receive. Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that this is a severe injustice to local authorities who have to cater for the community as a whole? All the essential services are operated on a non-profit basis, but they have to pay the same rate of interest as commercial undertakings? Does not he appreciate that such a grave injustice has never been more unwarranted and that it is time the position was altered?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows that the question of local authority borrowing is at present being reviewed. I would only remind him that the present rates on borrowings from the Public Works Loan Board came into force in October and that the rates have been reduced five times since the beginning of April of this year.
Does the Government wish to see an increase or a decrease in council house building?
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government dealt with this point only a short time ago and said that he did not expect any difficulty in reaching his target on this account.
Would the hon. Gentleman consider giving local authorities freedom to borrow from the Public Works Loan Board? Is he aware that local authorities are allowed to go to to the Board only if they cannot obtain money in the private market?
On many occasions at this Box I have explained what, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman knows only too well—the present policy of the Government. I ask the hon. Gentleman to await the current review of local authority borrowing which is now taking place.
Is there any hope of getting the Bank Rate down by 1 per cent. in the near future and so helping all these problems?
I hardly think that my hon. Friend would expect me to answer that.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what reply he has sent to the telegram addressed to him by Mr. Kenneth Shorrock, secretary of the Textile Action Group, calling for similar assistance to be given to the textile industry as he has recently given to the motor car industry be reducing Purchase Tax.
I have told Mr. Shorrock that have noted his representations and will bear them in mind.
While thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for that reply, may I ask if he is aware that the motor car industry, to whose help he has just sprung so generously, has always enjoyed a high degree of protection, Whereas the cotton industry has been exposed to the most severe competition? On the basis of the principle he himself outlined for his action in respect of the motor industry, namely,
would he not agree that the textile industry qualifies outstandingly under that head for urgent action without having to wait for the next Budget?"to give stimulus where it is most needed with a particular eye on investment and exports".
I think the circumstances are quite different. Many textile piece goods and household textile goods are not charged to tax anyway. The tax on clothing is 10 per cent, and clothing sales are going up steadily.
Will the Chancellor bear in mind that in towns like Oldham, where mill after mill has been closed in the last few weeks, there are no alternative buildings available even if alternative industry were available? There is nothing we can do because of the physical restriction imposed on the firms and we have nowhere to accommodate the industry. The situation is growing grave and serious, and it is not enough to say that people can travel 20 miles across the Pennines or 40 miles across Lancashire where they may be able to obtain suitable employment. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this again and not give the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), which in its expression sounded a little callous, or at least casual?
I have said, and I repeat, that I intend to review the whole Purchase Tax structure in connection with the forthcoming Budget. It would be unwise for me to say more.
Is the Chancellor aware that the rate of unemployment in Colne now is about 9·7 per cent. and the rate of unemployment in Nelson is scarcely less? Is he aware that those two towns depend almost entirely on the cotton industry for their living, which they are not now making, and that the people unemployed are in middle age and are not now able to learn new skills, quite apart from moving long distances elsewhere? Will he not treat this matter so lightly as he and all his colleagues in the Government have done for many years?
I am not treating it lightly at all, but I doubt whether the circumstances the hon. Member has referred to have any connection with Purchase Tax on clothing.
Of course they do.
Trade And Commerce
Aberdeen (Advance Factories)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has yet completed his consideration of the need for building advance factories in Aberdeen; and how many such factories he now plans to build, and for which industries.
My right hon. Friend has no plans for building advance factories in Aberdeen.
Is that not a terrible confession of failure? Does the hon. Gentleman know that this morning I received a letter showing that he is as bigoted and prejudiced as ever against the city of Aberdeen, notwithstanding representations made to various Ministers of the Crown when they visited Aberdeen, representations made by Aberdeen Trades Council and other representative bodies there? Will he get rid of that bigotry and prejudice against Aberdeen and supply us with advance factories which we need?
I can assure the hon. and learned Member that my right hon. Friend has no bigotry towards the city of Aberdeen, but in his view there are other parts of Scotland in which the need is greater.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a need as great as an advance factory in Aberdeen is to encourage existing industry to obtain a larger share of sub-contracting work from the industrial belt? Could he therefore say what his Department is doing to encourage this?
I can assure my hon. Friend that financial assistance under the Act is always available to firms in Aberdeen of whatever nature they are.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what is his estimate of the economic benefit to Great Britain, and in particular to Scotland, resulting from the British Exhibition and Trade Fair held in Stockholm from 18th May to 3rd June. 1962.
United Kingdom exports to Sweden during the third quarter of 1962 were 11 per cent. higher than in the corresponding quarter of last year. Separate figures for Scotland are not available. The British Trade Fair was no doubt one of many factors which contributed to this result.
Can the hon. Gentleman give an instance of how many orders resulted from that festival or fair? Was all that money misspent by the Government? Has anything resulted for the benefit of Scotland? If it has, what steps is he taking, in conjunction with the Minister of Transport, to provide a means of fulfilling any orders which have emanated from it?
I am not quite sure how many questions there were in that supplementary question. As the hon. and learned Member knows quite well, and as all hon. Members know, one cannot attribute specifically to a trade fair all the consequent increases in the subsequent year of exports which may be obtained for this country. It would be silly to try to attribute to one single activity an increase of the size I have given. British industry has indeed gone out and got the work in Sweden, and it has been supported in getting that work by this trade fair. I do not think it would be helpful to say more.
Japanese Fishing Reels
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to prevent fishing reels entering this country from Japan free of control; and if he will ensure that in future such imports are covered by the same licensing arrangements as apply in the case of all other items of fishing tackle and sports equipment.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, owing to a blunder in his Department four years ago, fishing reels are coming to this country under the guise of cotton reels? Is he also aware that there is a certain amount of slack trading in the fishing reel industry, which is largely situated in Redditch in my constituency? In view of this, will not he reconsider the matter and see that the ridiculous situation whereby fishing reels come into the country under the guise of cotton reels and cotton bobbins is done away with?
I think my hon. Friend is aware that fishing reels imported from Japan have been free of restrictions for as long ago as 1957—[Laughter.] Perhaps I may be permitted to continue. They come in under a definition covering reels and spools of all kinds. That was done in 1957, and we have since heard from one or two fishing reel manufacturers protests about these imports, but the trade association concerned has not produced any evidence in support of them, although it has been given the opportunity to do so. I am, of course, perfectly ready to consider any further practical considerations which may be made.
Will my hon. Friend consider the matter again if I send him evidence from the industry concerned?
I have already said that I will look at any fresh evidence which may be produced.
Is it not a pretty silly definition anyhow? Would it not be better if the hon. Gentleman put some sense into it?
It is an international definition.
Solicitation Of Money
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce legislation during this session to amend the Companies Act, 1948, so as to control solicitation of money from the public.
Legislation will be introduced as soon as the parliamentary programme permits.
In view of the fact that my hon. Friend was sponsor to a Bill which I introduced in March, 1960, when the Economic Secretary told me that he hoped that legislation would be introduced during the next Session because the matter was urgent, would he please tell me what as soon "as possible" means?
My hon. Friend is old enough in the House to put his own interpretation on it. I can assure him that the delay is not due to the difficulty of framing legislation but to the difficulty of finding Parliamentary time.
Does the Minister appreciate that the Bill to which he originally gave his support may now be reintroduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) and myself in the form of private legislation and that our intentions in the matter will be very much affected by how soon "as soon as possible" is?
I shall communicate my hon. Friends anxiety to the Leader of the House.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what special instructions he has given his officials in the Swindon area; and what special steps he will take to assist men who will become redundant at the British Railways workshops by guiding new industries to Swindon which are able to use the skill and experience of these men, and the plant and premises which will no longer be used by British Railways.
No special action is needed to guide new industry to Swindon where, even allowing for the proposed railway workshops redundancy, the employment prospects are good. The Board of Trade will naturally have regard to the effects of this redundancy when considering applications for industrial development certificates in Swindon.
It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to take this complacent attitude, but is he not aware that there is a very grave problem facing some hundreds of men, particularly older craftsmen who are to he sacked next year and the year after that from the railway workshops? Is he aware that the alternative employment outlook is not so hot at the moment? Will he not look again at the whole question and consider going down there himself, or asking his right hon. Friend to do so, in order to look at the situation on the spot?
I can assure the hon. Member that we shall look sympathetically at applications for development, but—I must add the proviso—only applications which cannot go to development districts. We cannot undertake to guide new industry to the area while the needs of the development districts are so pressing.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary recognise the real problem in these areas where railway workshops and other similar workshops are closing down completely and many of the older men are not equipped to take other jobs? Has he any plans for rehabilitation units in those areas to which the Government can recommend these men to go in order that they may take up suitable work in the area?
The hon. Member knows that in my constituency capacity I am extremely well aware of this problem. He also knows that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in one or two instances is proposing to set up retraining units to do just what the hon. Member has been asking.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, may I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Travel Agents (Registration)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will introduce legislation to provide for the compulsory registration of travel agents.
My right hon. Friend is not satisfied that such legislation is necessary.
Has my hon. Friend and his Department made any estimate of the loss occasioned to members of the public by the absence of such protection?
As in all walks of life, there are one or two black sheep in this profession, but I am not satisfied that the conduct of travel agents in general is wrong. Where there are very rare exceptions, the number is very small in relation to the total number involved.
Ex-Ministers And Civil Servants (Employment)
asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that there is concern that the holder of a high judicial office upon resignation or retirement may be offered paid employment in industry; and if he will consider introducing legislation prohibiting such transfers.
asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that there is concern that highly placed civil servants upon retirement, and Ministers of the Crown following resignation, are quickly offered executive positions in industry and commerce; and if he will consider introducing legislation prohibiting these immediate transfers during a specified period.
asked the Prime Minister if he will seek power to apply to ex-Ministers, who become directors of commercial undertakings with which their former Departments had business dealings, regulations similar to those governing senior civil servants taking comparable directorships on their retirement.
I do not think that such legislation would be wise or necessary.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that judicial pensions proportionate to Service men's pay are vastly higher than those of any other branch of the public service, and, in particular, that the Lord Chancellor, unlike any other Cabinet Minister, receives a pension of £5,000 a year pre- cisely so that judges need not hang around their necks a "For Hire" label? Does he consider it desirable for industry to be in a position to run its eye down the High Court Bench and decide whom it will buy? Does he think that justice appears to be done when judges might have appearing before them a potential employer who is in a position to quadruple their screw? Is not this a serious matter?
There are two points. First, I think that it is desirable and beneficial to the country that men of considerable experience should be available, when they leave the Government, to the service of industry and commerce. Secondly, I understand that Lord Kilmuir, like other Lord Chancellors, does not draw his pension while he is not fulfilling a judicial function.
Is the Prime Minister not aware that there has been widespread concern over a long period about this quick switch from Minister of the Crown to executive member, director or adviser of big business?
Jobs for the boys.
This is especially so if the Ministers happen to have been in negotiations previously with the firm which they are joining. Is the Prime Minister not aware that Cabinet Ministers, with their intimate knowledge of forward Government thinking and their personal contacts in high places in the Civil Service and in the Government, are in big demand? Would he not therefore consider, even if he avoids legislation, whether there should be some introduction of either a higher code of conduct or a period of restraint so that this quick switch from Minister of the Crown to big business does not seem so unseemly and so connected with the previous office?
No, Sir. Dealing with the specific point, I know of no case in which the ex-Ministers concerned have been concerned with contracts or negotiations with the firms in question. As for the wider issue, I think that the hon. Member, like so many of his hon. Friends, is living rather in the past. He seems to expect that in future nobody will be able to enter public life unless he has a large private income.
Does not the Prime Minister appreciate that there has been some marked falling off recently in standards of conduct? Does he recall that when this House was considering in 1959 the Lord Chancellor's pension, Sir Jocelyn Simon, then Solicitor-General, said that it was not altogether in accordance with custom for an ex-Lord Chancellor to take an outside post?
I do not know from what the hon. Member is quoting, but verbatim quotation in Questions is not allowed unless it is an exceptional case.
It was not a verbatim quotation, Mr. Speaker, but the sense of what the Solicitor-General told the House on that occasion. In the light of these circumstances, is it not more and more crudely obvious that the Tory Party and big business are just one and the same thing?
No, Sir. I do not think that considerations relevant to what should be the pension of a Minister apply when the Minister in question does not draw the pension.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there have been many men from industry and commerce who have given valuable service in the House, on both sides of it and on both Front Benches and back benches, and that to place any restrictions on movement from industry and commerce or back again would be against the best interests of the country?
Yes, Sir. I find myself in complete agreement with my right hon. Friend.
Does the Prime Minister recall exactly what Sir Jocelyn Simon, when Solicitor-General, said on this subject when he was introducing the Judicial Pensions Bill? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Sir Jocelyn Simon said that there was a moral obligation upon an ex-Lord Chancellor to continue to preside over the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the House of Lords Law Lords? How can an ex-Lord Chancellor do this if he occupies a full-time post in industry? Can the Prime Minister give us any example of a former Lord Chancellor taking a post in industry, ex- cept that of Lord Birkenhead, and would he not agree that this was bitterly criticised at the time? The Prime Minister has accused us of being in the past, but is he aware that, with the exception of Lord Birkenhead, the conduct of ex-Ministers in the past was very much better than it is today?
Ex-Lord Chancellors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries no doubt accumulated in those periods of small taxation and high fees during their period of service very large capital resources. All that has changed. I think that it is not only fair but generally beneficial that there should be this interchange between industry and commerce in this way.
How can the Prime Minister defend the Judicial Pensions Bill, which specifically increased the pension of the Lord Chancellor in order to prevent this kind of thing happening? Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying to us that all that is nonsense, that all that is in the past, and that in future Lord Chancellors can take any job they like?
No, Sir. I am saying that the justification for the pension was that, if the Lord Chancellor was sitting as a judge—as a Law Lord or in other ways—although he was not obliged to do so, but so long as he had his health and strength, if he drew the pension and did nothing else, he was expected to sit as a Law Lord. In this case my noble Friend Lord Kilmuir, who is being attacked now—though why I do not understand—does not draw the pension.
Would the Prime Minister apply what he has just been saying about the Lord Chancellor to High Court judges, because I cannot see any difference between the two?
Judges of the High Court are generally men who have spent their whole life in the legal profession. They are similar to civil servants, working their way up through the legal profession to judges. It is their life. The Lord Chancellor—whether it is a good or a bad thing, it is part of our Constitution—is a political figure. He is in or out of office, according to the chances. I think that what Lord Kilmuir has done is perfectly proper. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to start another hare, we are prepared to run that too.
In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of those replies, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter again at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. Warbey—Question No. 2.
On a point of order. Where a number of Questions are being answered together, does a notice of this sort prevent further supplementaries on the other Questions?
Yes, I think it does, because they are all on one topic. It does not arise, anyhow, because I have called the next Question.
With great respect, surely the Question as to Ministers and the Question as to judges raise fundamentally different issues? I respectfully ask you if I may put a further point to make that distinction.
No, I am sorry. I appreciate the distinction, but I also must have regard to the fact that we have a number of Questions to aim at to the Prime Minister. That is why I called the next Question.
asked the Prime Minister what consultations he had with President Kennedy between 25th and 28th October on the use of United States or British nuclear weapons in the event of war breaking out over the Cuban missile bases.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave him on 6th November.
That was no answer at all. Has the Prime Minister since had an opportunity to see what the Foreign Secretary said in the House of Lords on 1st November? The Foreign Secretary then said that during the previous ten days the world had been faced with the prospect of a nuclear war In those circumstances, is the Prime Minister now saying that he abdicated his responsibility to the British people and allowed them to meet their possible fate of nuclear annihilation without any possibility of their voice being heard in the dispute about which they were to suffer and die?
No, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman will refer to what I said then, he will see that I said precisely the opposite.
Factory, Bathgate (Prime Minister's Visit)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his recent official visit to the British Motor Corporation factory in Bathgate.
When I was in Edinburgh last month I took the opportunity of visiting the British Motor Corporation factory in Bathgate as an example of the Government's factory building programme under the Local Employment Act. I was encouraged by the progress that is being made in this contribution to the economy in Scotland.
In the light of the fact that the Prime Minister was told of the 6·3 unemployment rate in the Bathgate area and in the light of the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to look favourably on that form of aid to developing countries which comes from under-utilised resources in Britain, will the right hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary for Technical Co-operation and the President of the Board of Trade to determine what forms of aid can be produced in the northeast of England, in Northern Ireland and in Scotland?
The question is about one particular factory. I said that it is an example of one of the successful operations under the Act. What we want is an extension of that, and I hope that that will come.
Is the Prime Minister aware that his Answer will sound remarkably complacent in Scotland where there is very great anxiety about rising unemployment at present?
No, Sir. I answered the Question on the Order Paper.
Does the Prime Minister appreciate that the success of this factory, of which we are glad, should be matched against the fact that the area has again to be rescheduled as requiring help?
Yes, Sir, but this shows that this form of development together with the other ancillary factories which I hope will build themselves round the motor trade now established in Scotland is just the kind of thing we want.
European Economic Community
asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received for the holding of a national referendum before Her Majesty's Government ratifies the Treaty of Rome; and what replies he has made.
asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received regarding the holding of a General Election or a referendum on Britain's entry into the European Economic Community; and what replies he has sent.
When the question has been raised in this House I have given replies similar to that which I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) on 13th November.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are those who do not follow the Sandwich line but who believe that the nation should be consulted before this country ratifies the Treaty of Rome? Will he therefore consider holding a national referendum on the Common Market issue within a reasonable time of the initialling of the heads of agreement, should this take place?
I think that the procedure is as we have laid it down all along. The first thing is to go on with the negotiations and, if possible, bring them to a conclusion. When that is done, it will be the duty of the Government to recommend to the House what course we should pursue. I do not think it would be wise to go beyond that at this stage.
Is the Prime Minister aware that his evasive answers do not lend any credit to democracy and will give the impression that the Prime Minister has no real confidence in the public support for the policies which he is now pursuing in direct defiance to the mandate he obtained at the last election?
All I was saying was that we had better take things as they come along.
Will my right hon. Friend in his further consideration of this matter bear in mind that accession to the Treaty of Rome raises issues of unique importance and that many people who would normally be opposed to the introduction of referenda into our Constitution nevertheless feel that on this exceptional occasion there should be some way of consulting the public by a method other than a General Election in which no clear decision could be reached?
Yes, Sir. I realise all these problems, but I do not think that the time has yet come to consider them.
Since the views of the people of this country should be heard on this question before a final decision is taken and since this honourable House is supposed to represent the people of the country, would not the Prime Minister consider at least the desirability of giving a free vote on the occasion so that Members of Parliament will take their full responsibility in voting on behalf of their constituents?
I will, of course, take note of that, but I think all I have said is still true, that we ought to go on with the negotiations, bring them to an end, see what the Government themselves make up their mind to recommend and then, as the hon. Gentleman says, let the House judge.
(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister what steps Her Majesty's Government is taking to protect the lives and property of British subjects threatened by the Chinese advance in Assam.
It has been agreed with the Government of India that, in view of the further Chinese advances in the North-East Frontier Agency of India, the wives and children of British residents north of the Brahmaputra River, in Assam, should be moved at once to safer areas.The Indian Government have undertaken to provide transport and we have just learned from our High Commissioner's Office in Calcutta that the first planeload of evacuated British residents has arrived there in good order. This partial evacuation represents the first phase of a plan which has been arranged between the Indian and British Governments in consultation with the British community to meet an emergency of this kind which has now arisen. The British Deputy High Commissioner has gone to Assam, where he is maintaining the closest touch with the Indian authorities. As an additional precautionary measure, Royal Air Force transport aircraft are being sent from Singapore to India to be available if needed. Further appropriate measures will be taken as and when required.
While the House will, I am sure, be reassured by the statement of the Prime Minister about the safety of British subjects in Assam, is it not now clear that the Chinese advance into India is not a mere border conflict, but carries with it the very gravest possibilities?Will the Prime Minister tell the House what Her Majesty's Government are doing in these circumstances, whether they have been asked by the Indian Government, for instance, to supply aircraft, whether consultations have taken place with the United States of America and whether the right hon. Gentleman would not consider, in view of this critical situation, sending a mission to India; either a mission headed by a senior member of the Government or, possibly, a military mission—whichever the Indian Government think most appropriate—so that we can all be assured that everything possible is being done to help India in this situation?
The right hon. Gentleman will, of course, appreciate that there is a certain delicacy in stating any details of our discussions and plans. We are in continuous consultation with the Government of India and we are in the closest consultation with other members of the Commonwealth and with the United States Government. I do not think that there is anything I can add today which would be helpful, but I recognise the potential dangers and, of course, the wide anxiety and sympathy for India which is felt in this country and throughout the Commonwealth. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not press me further, for these matters are under urgent consideration and I think that it would not be wise for me to go into further details.
Would the Prime Minister consider having this question raised at the Security Council of the United Nations in view of the obvious threat to world peace, and bearing in mind that India's reluctance to take the matter up with the United Nations is due to her fear of compromising her policy of non-alignment by annoying the Russians? This argument does not apply to this country or to some other country.Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that there is not the slightest chance of the Indian forces, which are ill-equipped and small in number, being able to drive the Chinese out by themselves and without the help of United Nations troops?
That, also, raises rather delicate questions in our relations with the Government of India and I would prefer to leave it unanswered at the moment. Our first duty is to try to bring what help we can with our friends in the Commonwealth and with the United States. We also have a duty, and a hope, that these grave events may have a unifying effect throughout the sub-continent and that, perhaps, some good might come out of this evil, if that can be used wisely and delicately in the directions which, I think, the whole House wants.
While appreciating the difficulties of the Prime Minister in saying very much at this stage, would he not agree that events are, unfortunately, moving very fast at the moment? Would he, therefore, give serious attention to the suggestion I made, that a mission might be sent by Her Majesty's Government to India at this point?
Yes, Sir We have thought of all these matters, but we must arrange them with our friends in India.
Following the report this morning that 80 aircraft of the Royal Air Force Reserve were to be sent to India and the fact that India is receiving Russian MIG aircraft at the same time, would it not be appropriate for my right hon. Friend to consult Mr. Khrushchev as to whether nuclear arms are to be included in the aid to India, either from Russia or this country, or whether any aid we give is to be restricted to only conventional weapons?
I think that the questions which have been asked and the whole mood of the House would be to recognise the gravity of the position and not to try to exaggerate or minimise it and, certainly, not to embark upon lines of approach which might do more harm than good. We have a very confused situation, as I say, and I am not without hope that we can use it to good advantage. But I would like to assure the House that we have not underrated this and that we realise the very difficult military situation which might develop.
While not wanting to press the Prime Minister, and accepting that this is a difficult diplomatic situation, can we assume that he is keeping in mind one possible line of thought in this tragic situation, namely, that Soviet Russia, in present circumstances, has a common interest with India and this country in trying to see that the Chinese do not benefit by one inch from their aggression? Can we also assume that nothing will be left undone to try to bring common pressure on the Chinese from India, Pakistan, Britain and Canada and, also, from the Soviet Union?
All these matters are, of course, very much in our mind. What we want to do is to produce the result, which is that an aggressive policy should once again be shown to be a failure and not to produce benefits to those who adopt it. That has been the policy of this country as a whole for many years. We have suffered a great deal in trying to enforce it, but we must not shrink from it again.
Will the Prime Minister bear in mind Article 35 of the United Nations Charter, which provides that any threat to world peace and security shall be brought to the attention not only of the Security Council, but of the General Assembly? Does the right hon. Gentleman not consider that the present situation justifies the United Nations facing up to its responsibilities?
Yes, Sir, but I think that the Prime Minister of India must have the main decision as to any approach to the United Nations and would very much resent a kind of butting in by us unless it was by arrangement.
Seaham Harbour Lifeboat (Loss)
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement about the disaster to the lifeboat at Seaham Harbour on 17th November.
The Seaham Harbour lifeboat was launched with a crew of five at about 4.10 p.m. on 17th November to search for the fishing coble "Economy" which had been reported to Seaham coastguard as overdue. At about 4.55 p.m. the lifeboat reported, by radiotelephone, that she had found the missing coble, had taken off the five occupants, and was returning to harbour.At about 5.15 p.m., the lifeboat capsized when 20 yards outside the entrance to Seaham Harbour, and was later washed inshore in a damaged condition. At the time a north-easterly gale—force 8 to 10—was blowing and there was a heavy confused sea and swell. It was overcast and there were sleet showers. The coastguard called the flank lifeboats from Hartlepool and Sunderland to search for survivors. Beach searches were also organised and aircraft assistance obtained to drop flares. One man from the fishing cable was washed up alive on the beach and is now in hospital. Seven bodies have so far been recovered and two are still missing. The search for these continues. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has begun an inquiry into the cause of this tragic accident and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that the House will wish me to express its deepest sympathy with the families of all the brave men who lost their lives.
I should like to thank the Minister for his statement and to endorse the sympathy which he has extended to the families of those who have lost their lives in this disaster. Would the right hon. Gentleman use his offices to do everything he can to see that the needs of the dependants are met and that help is given to them as soon as possible?
Certainly, Sir, and I am glad to say that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution has already said and agreed that they will be paid pensions by the Insitution on the scale applicable to chief petty officers in the Royal Navy. I understand that the Institution has already sent a substantial cheque to start these pensions going. I am sure that the whole House will be very grateful to the Institution for such prompt action.
Whilst wishing to associate myself with the feeling of bereavement for all those who have lost their lives in this tragic case, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that by Sunday morning the Royal National Lifeboat Institution sent out a team of officials, led by the Deputy Chief Inspector, to carry out an immediate inquiry into what had caused this tragic accident?Is my right hon. Friend further aware that the Institution has already sent a sum of £500 to the dependants and that the pensions which, as he has said, will be paid to dependants on the scale of chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, will be paid irrespective of any other State benefit or any other pensions applicable to these unfortunate people?
I am sure that the whole House will agree that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution acted very speedily and very efficiently and, I think, in the circumstances, extremely generously.
May I, as a former Member for the area, associate myself with the expressions of sympathy?
In the light of these and other such disasters in recent years, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will consider that it might be worth while instituting an inquiry into the question whether it would not be better to have self-righting lifeboats, as this one was not?
Before taking any further action in this case, we had better await the outcome of inquiries which are being made by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
Questions To Ministers (Tribunal Of Inquiry)
May I raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a point of order in relation to two Questions, which I sought to place on the Order Paper, in connection with the Ministerial responsibility for security, and evidence before the Tribunal?As I understand, the first Question, which sought to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether he would offer to give evidence before the Tribunal, has been accepted as being in order. I understand that the second Question, which it would be out of order for me to read but which sought to obtain information from the Government of the evidence which they would offer, has been ruled by you as being out of order. I understand that your decision is based upon a statement made by Mr. Speaker Lowther on 21st March, 1921, in col. 2268 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, in which he ruled that as the matter before a Tribunal had been referred to that Tribunal it should not be raised and discussed in the House. May I submit for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, that the Ruling given by Mr. Speaker Lowther was on the Second Reading of the Ministries (Cessation) Bill, and the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Bill, which was the authority for setting up the Tribunal, did not receive the Royal Assent and become law until three days later, on 24th March. In those circumstances, Mr. Speaker Lowther, speaking in the past tense, used the word "undesirable" when he was seeking to give guidance and in those circumstances your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on the second Question is not applicable. Would you be good enough, therefore, to reconsider it? Surely it is a matter of the utmost importance to the House that Ministerial responsibility in connection with this matter should be established as being a matter proper on which the House can question the Executive to ensure, first, that the Prime Minister appears before the Tribunal to give evidence and, secondly, that the House should know what evidence he will offer on behalf of the Government covering their responsibility in this matter.
I am greatly obliged to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for enabling us to reach a position where I can rule, because I think that it is for the general convenience. I say nothing about the Question which I have allowed.The reason why I disallowed the hon. Member's second Question was because I thought that it related to a matter referred to the Tribunal. My Ruling is—and I make it as a considered declaration of principle—that when the House has resolved that it is expedient to set up a Tribunal under the 1921 Act to inquire into a matter, and a Tribunal has been set up, it is not in accordance with the practice of the House to allow Questions to Ministers upon the matter of the inquiry. I base myself on the Ruling of my predecessor, Mr. Speaker Lowther, to which the hon. Member for Dudley has referred. If hon. Members want to look at it, it is in Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 139, col. 2268. The hon. Member is quite right in saying that at that time the Bill, which ultimately became the 1921 Act, was not already law. The position was that the Bill was brought into existence to help the House to inquire into allegations which had been made by an hon. and gallant Gentleman and the House resolved to refer that specific matter to a Tribunal before the Bill was law, in anticipation of the Bill becoming law. Following the words of the Bill, the House will recall that the Statute reads now by reference to a Resolution
In these circumstances, I do not regard the fact that Mr. Speaker Lowther was ruling before the Bill became law as in any way reducing the cogency of my predecessor's Ruling binding upon myself now."… whether passed before or after the commencement of this Act …"
May I ask the Leader of the House whether the Ruling which you now give, Mr. Speaker, and the Ruling given by Mr. Speaker Lowther, will be matters which will be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure?
Yes. I think that the Leader of the House said that the other day, but before the hon. Member asks him, may I indicate that I would not be disposed to argue on this Ruling of mine now because it is a considered one, on the best advice I can get and think about.On the matter to be referred to the Select Committee, I would make it my business to see that there was made available to the Committee, in such form as it would like, every single matter that I have considered in this context.
In accordance with the undertaking I gave last