I beg to move,
That this House doth agree with the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) in their Fourth Report relating to the size of Hansard
I should announce that I have selected the amendment in the names of the hon. Member for Newham South (Mr. Spearing) and other hon. Members.
Perhaps I should begin by making it clear to the House that the issue at present is whether the size of Hansard should be changed from the large royal octavo—the present size—to the A4 size, which is slightly larger, as recommended by the Services Committee.The House will recall that when we last discussed this matter on 15th March, my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) supported an amendment which, in effect, asked the House not to agree the Services Committee Report until more comprehensive information had been provided, including evidence from the Officers of the House. That amendment was carried and the Services Committee complied speedily with the wishes expressed by the House. The members of the Committee conducted their investigation into the proposals of Her Majesty's Stationery Office afresh, taking evidence from House and Stationery Office officials, and in their Fourth Report, published on 31st March, reaffirmed their recommendation that Hansard be changed to A4 size. Now that this further information is available, I hope the House will feel able to come to a conclusion fairly swiftly this afternoon. I should like first to dwell briefly on the points raised during the last debate, especially by those who supported the amendment. Both my hon. Friends felt that if one of the arguments for change was that standardisation led to economies, Hansard should be looked at not in isolation but together with all parliamentary papers. The more papers included in standardisation, the more the savings would be. I do not deny the logic in this suggestion. The Report makes it clear, however, that the present Parliamentary Press will be re-equipped in two new presses, the first to be set up in 1978–79 and the second a couple of years later. Re-equipment has to be phased over this kind of time span to ensure the necessary continuity; time is needed, for example, for the installation of equipment and training of staff. The first press will be devoted principally to Hansard and the second will print all the other parliamentary papers. The page size of Hansard must therefore be dealt with as a matter of urgency whilst there is no immediate need to consider the page size of the other papers as that equipment will not be ordered for a while—not until after the Hansard press has been in operation for several months. The Services Committee points out that this will provide an ideal opportunity for HMSO to inform the House of the savings achieved before approval is given to further changes. This seems to me a sensible way of proceeding which the House will welcome. I am sure that HMSO would of course prefer a standard size for all publications—it would further reduce running costs and permit greater flexibility of machine use—but this decision, I repeat, will be left till later. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham. South conceded that there probably was a case for standardisation, but asked why it should be A4, and not A5 which is half the size. Because A4 would mean that fewer pages would need to be printed and consequently fewer pages to be collated and stitched, it would give not only a quicker service but also the maximum savings in running costs. Standardisation of all parliamentary papers to either A4 or A5 would make a large capital saving, but A4 would make a substantially greater saving in annual manpower costs—£256,000 as against£87,000. In the previous debate, other hon. Members were not convinced that the proposals would be welcomed by the House authorities, and so we carried out the further instruction of the House on that matter. Evidence was heard from the Clerk of the House, the Principal Clerk of the Table Office, the Librarian, the Editor of the Official Report and the Deliverer of the Vote. The Clerk, as Accounting Officer, fully supported HMSO's proposals because of the savings to public funds, and the other Officers said that A4 would neither significantly increase their costs nor reduce their efficiency. In addition HMSO consulted 26 libraries and all would accommodate A4 size; most users have adjustable shelving. There might even be a small reduction in shelf space. I should like to underline the main advantages of the proposals, but before I do, I should like to emphasise how urgent it is that we should have a decision. Further delay will place the equipment programme at risk. Already the uncertainty is having, as the evidence indicates, a detrimental effect on the feelings of the staff of the Parliamentary Press. HMSO must replace its present plant; it is not only obsolescent but also inadequate because of the great growth in parliamentary printing, which is now equivalent to printing three national newspapers a day. I have always thought myself that we have seen a remarkable achievement by HMSO and that the House has, to some degree, taken it for granted. As these figures indicate, there has been an enormous increase in the amount of work that has been done and is likely to have to be done by the printing presses. Quite simply, as the evidence indicates, without a change the present high standard of service given to this House by HMSO is in danger of collapse. Indeed, some of the Officers from the Stationery Office who gave us evidence deplored, as Members of the House have deplored on a number of occasions, the times when there has been a deterioration in the supply of papers to the House. One of the reasons for their wishing the proposals to be accepted by the House is that they believe that it is only by that method that we shall be able to restore the highest standard of service to the House which they have performed in the past. Given that we must have new equipment, the question is what sort it should be. Her Majesty's Stationery Office proposes to use the change to take advantage of the new technology. This is both sensible and would give a better service. To take maximum advantage of the new technology equally would mean moving to metric equipment, which is becoming increasingly standard in the printing world. This would involve large savings to the public purse in both capital and running costs. Of metric sizes, A4 seems to offer the maximum savings and the quickest service. I believe that the evidence given to us in the latest proceedings, although in some respects no more than a reiteration of what we had heard before, underlined what Her Majesty's Stationery Office is concerned about, what the Services Committee is concerned about, and what I am concerned about, not to mention the view of the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) who has given such a great deal of his time to these matters. What we are all concerned about, even more than the question of reducing the cost, is improving the service to the House and making sure that we do not permit the collapse in that service which is prophesied by some of the experts if we do not take account of the warnings that have been given. Some hon. Members have put their names to an amendment today which
I should have thought it clear on the evidence to anyone who has studied the Services Committee's Report that this amendment is self-contradictory. HMSO and the Services Committee agree that HMSO will be in a better position to give a quicker, cheaper and more efficient service to the House if it changes to the new technology. This means the metric system, the system which is becoming increasingly standard and which is therefore cheaper and easier to operate. The A sizes are established and tried machines. A4 is bigger than the present size of Hansard, whilst A5 is smaller. As I have already explained, A5 would cost substantially more to operate and would take longer to produce because of the greater number of pages involved. So what alternative does the amendment leave us with? We could order the new machines to print the same size as now, but the machines would have to be tailor-made and therefore expensive to produce. Manning would be difficult, because they are not standard and the manpower arrangements would have to be separately negotiated. All in all, Hansard would be more difficult to pro-produce and the process would take longer. That cannot be described, in my opinion, as an improvement in the printing arrangements. Therefore on the test on which the hon. Members have put down the amendment, I believe that the amendment should not be supported. This House wants an accurate record of its proceedings as soon as possible the next day. If HMSO can improve its service and save public money, I do not think it would be wise for the House to try to stop it. In view of these general arguments, I hope that the House will now, at last, be prepared to accept the recommendations of the Services Committee, this being the third occasion on which we have put them forward. I hope that it will be "third time lucky". I do not complain that many of my hon. Friends, and the House as a whole, by their vote, asked that further information should be given and that the matter should be looked at afresh. We were asked to make certain that, before we embarked on the change of altering the size of Hansard, we were making the right choice. I have no doubt that we are making the right choice, and that is also the view of the Services Committee which has gone into the matter with considerable care, all the greater because of the instructions of the House on the last occasion. As I have indicated before, although these may be a matter of taste, in my opinion, the new size of Hansard will be more convenient that the older one. That is one of the reasons for my support of the proposal and why I believe that the position has sometimes been misunderstood. I repeat that what we are proposing is not a bowing down to the god of standardisation. We are not proposing that, nor are we making proposals solely on the grounds of costs, although I suppose it is perfectly proper for the House, along with other people in the country, to take account of costs. What we are proposing fundamentally is designed to ensure that the services to the House from the Stationery Office shall be sustained at the highest possible standard. The standard has been extremely high over many years. Over recent years there has been some deterioration in some cases—not because of the failures of the staff but because of the circumstances themselves and because of the great pressures on our printing arrangements. As one who has spent most of his life in the newspaper trade, I certainly believe that the printing of Hansard is very fine achievement indeed, but each year it becomes more difficult to accomplish. If we were to neglect all the advice that we have taken on this matter, to set all that aside and to say either that we insist on this size of Hansard or something smaller, and that we will accept no other proposition than that, the House of Commons would make a prize fool of itself. I hope very much that we shall not do that."welcomes proposals for improving printing arrangements for Parliamentary Papers, but requires any change in their sizes to be measurements no larger than that of the present Official Report (Hansard)".
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
The House will not want me to take very long over this, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some of us have already been electioneering today and wish to do so after this debate. But I wish first to emphasise my full agreement with what my right hon. Friend said about the Parliamentary Press. It is, I think, one of the modern miracles of the age, and it is essentially a part of the machinery of democracy. The quality, the reputation and the excellence of parliamentary papers—albeit sometimes late, for reasons of which we know—are very important not only to the House but to Government Departments, to the public and to representative bodies, as well as to individual citizens throughout the land. But it should first be recognised that the demand for a change in size, as far as I know, has not come from them. It has not come from the consumer of any sort. Secondly, we are not really discussing the size of Hansard just like that. It is the size of all parliamentary papers, in effect. If the recommendations which we are asked to approve today are implemented, it will be quite clear that, once we have Hansard in A4, the scope for economies in the second Press, which my right hon. Friend mentioned, for the vote bundle, for White Papers—and, indeed, even possibly for Acts and Bills—will be such that there will be pressure to change them to A4 as well. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the effective choice will be made today, although there may be some formality—it is rather like the procedure with the car park—because once we change Hansard to A4, everything else will go to A4 as well.'welcomes proposals for improving printing arrangements for Parliamentary Papers, but requires any change in their sizes to be measurements no larger than that of the present Official Report (Hansard)'.
It will not be a formality, certainly not if I have anything to do with it, as I hope I shall for many years to come. It will be as I have said and as we have proposed. If the change is made, it may influence future decisions, but the House of Commons will retain its right later on to decide whether the same rules are to be applied to the other documents.
I do not contradict my right hon. Friend in a de jure sense, but, having set up one press for A4, the idea is indeed present in the Select Committee Report that the presses should work together for flexibility and all the rest of it. The pressure and arguments in favour of going to A4 for all parliamentary documents will be very much stronger, and I do not think that my right hon. Friend would disagree with that. He almost said as much in his intervention.Although it may seem rather curious that the House should be debating this highly domestic topic, in essence it is much more important, because here we have the needs of modern technology and for maintaining speed dictating over what I would claim to be the needs of the consumer. It may be that many hon. Members have no strong feeling either way about whether we should proceed to a larger size, but I maintain—this is the real reason for my moving the amendment—that for the needs of those who use these papers, the larger size, with more words per page and a greater difficulty of movement, is likely to be almost certainly less convenient. Imagine a Committee of the House upstairs when we have the original Bill, a White Paper, an amendment sheet and the proceedings of the few preceding days and juggling with sheets of that size instead of having the existing handy sizes which have been traditional for White Papers. Select Committee reports and everything else. I put it to my right hon. Friend that at least there is a division of opinion on this, and we are at least justified in saying that. This is the third debate on the subject, as my right hon. Friend said, and in the last debate 175 hon. Members against 83 asked for more information. The information that we have amounts to figures and estimates of capital and cost savings over the existing system. Let us have all the new technology that we can have—I am not against that at all—but surely if the technology is new, it can provide for the needs of the consumer at the same time. My right hon. Friend said that changing to A4 would speed up delivery. It may well be that that would be so. We do not know the extent to which that would be the case, because it is partly a subjective judgment. I do not think that it will be known unless and until the actual change takes place. The other argument rests on cost.
I am sorry to interrupt again, but I think it is extremely important that the question should be properly understood. Supported by others who have great experience in the House and who have carried out these great services to the House to which my hon. Friend pays proper tribute, we are recommending that the services to the House can be improved by what we decide to do, whereas alternatively there would be a great deterioration in the services if we did not do it.In this respect the evidence given, for example, by the Editor of Hansard is of great importance, and the House should take account of it. I recommend hon. Members to read the whole of this evidence, but I quote just one sentence from it:
It is important to recognise that it is the service to the House and to hon. Members that lies behind these recommendations."I very much hope, and therefore I support the Stationery Office proposals, that the new plant and machinery will help us to get back, in part at any rate, to our previous service to the House."
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and would not disagree with what he said. Perhaps he is straining a little. There is nothing in what he said with which I disagree, but surely what was referred to was not necessarily a change to A4 but standardisation.I fully admit—and, indeed, agree—that standardisation of size is the feature that will probably help the House in terms of speed of delivery. I am not saying that large royal octavo, the size of the present Hansard, may not be marginally slower to produce. I admit that it may he. What I say is that standardisation on large royal octavo for everything, which is the purport of the proposal, would at the same time assist delivery, speed and reduce capital costs, which are mentioned in the report of the Select Committee. It is to those aspects that I now wish to turn, because we are told that the savings with A4 would be fairly substantial. They would be substantial in terms of running costs. The table indicates a figure of something over£300,000 a year. But if there were to be standardisation on the present size of Hansard, the savings would also be quite considerable. An answer to a Question which I received yesterday shows that the savings in running costs with large royal octavo would be£166,000 less than they would be with the proposed A4 size. The A4 size would achieve a saving of£256,000, and for the large royal octavo the savings would be£90,000. This is what we are really talking about. This is the difference between us on this issue. I do not say that the saving of money is not important. What I say is that a difference of£166,000 is really not all that great in relation to the figure of£6 million for the St. Stephen's Press, plus the whole of the running cost of the House of Commons. I dare not estimate the costs of running this House and, indeed, of their Lordships' House together. It must be very substantial indeed. Are we saying that an extra £166,000 for standardising to the size of the present Hansard as against A4 is what should decide the issue? Should not the convenience of the House and of users also have some part in the matter? I am not challenging the figures that have been given. My right hon. Friend will no doubt agree that it may be marginally more difficult to produce a standardised Hansard size, but surely it is not so much more difficult than standardised A4. That is the burden of the case. I do not want to detain the House long. The present size of parliamentary papers is handy and convenient. The present size of Hansard has been with us since the series started 130 years ago. There have not been any complaints. In fact, as my right hon. Friend said, it is universally admired throughout the world. If we change the size, it will be for the needs of technology. My right hon. Friend will come across many places where changes are advocated and they look all right, but, rather like the little finger, it will not be until the changes have taken place that we shall realise the impact of what has happened. I suggest that there is a good argument for accepting the amendment, although my right hon. Friend may not agree with it. The savings would be marginal in relation to the total cost if we standardised on the large royal octavo—the present size of Hansard—rather than on A4, which is the recommendation of the Select Committee.
As one who had to take the Chair for some part of the Select Committee's investigations, I had the opportunity of asking, I hope pertinent questions of all those involved in the production of Hansard and other papers which are produced in the service of this House.I should point out at the outset that I was greatly impressed by the unanimity—whether printers, Stationery Office representatives, Librarians, Clerks of this House or anybody else—that the propositions which we have the opportunity of putting into effect would not only make a great improvement in the economy of the supply of our parliamentary papers, but, to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), be a great help to the technical people and that therefore we should accept the recommendations which they had made. The only reason why the technical people should make this request is to enable them to serve us better. We should be putting obstacles in the way of those who serve us so well and who are trying to serve us better if we went against the whole mass of their collective evidence that A4, which is not an inconvenient size of paper, would be good for Hansard and the service of this House. It is true that Hansard as such has not changed in format for many years. Indeed, it has never changed. But I ask the House to recognise that the output to be recorded has changed very much. I am not absolutely sure what the factor is, but, including Standing Committees, the volume that is now put out must be a factor of five, six or more than the annual volume that was put out when I first entered this House just under 30 years ago. Therefore, I feel that, to accommodate the huge output of valuable deliberations in this House and its Committees, a bigger format is now called for. That will enable us to produce the reports without having very small, thick volumes, of which large numbers have to be bound together, until in time perhaps we get books which are thicker than they are wide.
The point made by the hon. Gentleman has some substance. But the reports of Select Committees are not printed by the Official Report; neither are those of the House of Lords. Therefore, does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is some flexibility and that the question of volume is not as pressing, particularly if there were standardisation, as he suggests?
I was referring particularly to Standing Committees which, as we know, have proliferated to a great extent in recent years. If the record of the deliberations of our colleagues is to be on one format, surely by this time a larger page is not inappropriate. The page size which has been selected and recommended, whether we like it or not, fits in with the metric phase into which we are now entering. Indeed, it is already more or less familiar to us in that most parliamentary papers, other than Hansard, are of approximately that size.It would certainly be more convenient for Members if the Vote bundle, which we shall consider later, and Hansard were of the same size. Surely stowage in Members' own accommodation as well as in public accommodation would be greatly facilitated. I am referring to convenience to the consumer, not to the producer. Reverting to the main burden of what have to contribute to this discussion, having taken the Chair in the Select Committee and put a number of questions to those whom we were examining, I was profoundly impressed by the incredibly high degree of agreement not only among printers, but Librarians and, indeed, our Clerks, that this new size was desired. It is surely not without significance that it was an almost unanimous decision of the Services Committee that we should adopt the A4 size. Therefore, I strongly commend this decision to the House. It has been worked out in detail and owes nothing to imagination or fantasy. It is an earthy decision which we should be ready to accept with, I hope, some gratitude.
I rise to support the amendment so ably moved by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). I believe that he put the argument very well.I respect the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Dr. Bennett), who has put his position clearly. My hon. Friend said that he was impressed by those who gave evidence to the Services Committee. However, I take a totally different view from that which he has put to the House. My hon. Friend referred to the unanimity of decision for this change by Members of the Committee. Indeed, he referred to evidence given by Clerks of the House and by the printers. But what he did not talk about was the evidence given by Members themselves, which is most important. Whether Hansard is distributed throughout the world or is used by Librarians or Clerks, as far as I am concerned the real importance of Hansard is the use to which it is put by Members of this House.
Surely my hon. Friend does not consider that the members of the Services Committee were not reasonably representative of the Members of the House?
I can only remind my hon. Friend of the decision that was taken when the previous debate on this matter took place. As the hon. Member for Newham, South reminded us, after the supposedly plausible arguments put forward by those in favour of the change the House decided by 175 to 83 that it was not impressed by the argument and required further information. Many of those who voted on that occasion did not vote for further information but voted against the proposed change lock, stock and barrel. If there is a Division this afternoon, it is my intention to vote against any change.I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham and the Lord President that the same Committee that recommended the change that we are now debating recommended a change in the format of Early-Day Motions. I went to some trouble—if Mr. Speaker's figures are correct, it seems that the House went to some expense—to draw to the attention of the House the total inadequacy of the new proposal. I am delighted that the Services Committee has decided to terminate the experiment and to present Early-Day Motions in the traditional form. The Lord President and my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham talked about speed and parliamentary papers. Unless we have an industrial dispute at Her Majesty's Stationery Office, we can always obtain a copy of Hansard containing the previous day's business by approximately 10 o'clock in the morning of the following day. That seems to be perfectly adequate. If a Member has worked in the House until midnight, or even into the early hours of the morning, he does not get to this place before 10 o'clock. If he does, perhaps he is being a bit of a fool and not getting the right amount of sleep to enable him to deal properly with the complicated matters that are dealt with by the House. On most occasions the service offered by Her Majesty's Stationery Office is entirely adequate.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has read every word of the further information for which he asked.I am sure that he has read the whole of the report. If he has done so, he will have read what the Editor of Hansard said. The Editor said that he wanted assistance in ensuring that he could give a good service to Members. That is why he supports the recommendation.
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's point but I return to the argument that was lucidly advanced by the hon. Member for Newham, South. The hon. Gentleman said that perhaps we should not be considering changing the size of Hansard but changing the size and format of all parliamentary papers to that of the existing Hansard. Perhaps the Editor of Hansard would admit that if that were done his problems would be answered and the right service could be provided to the House by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.Much emphasis is placed on cost. It would be interesting for a costing to be made of the time that the House has spent debating this trivial, domestic matter. When we have record levels of unemployment, raging inflation and the grotesque and dangerous problems of Northern Ireland, I find it extraordinary that the House is spending some hours debating this unimportant and trivial matter. It would be interesting to know how much it is costing the House to function while the debate is taking place. I return to an important matter that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Newham, South. Surely Hansard is primarily a service to hon. Members. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman when he said that if a Member is making a speech in the Chamber and needs to refer to various columns of Hansard it is very much easier to do so with the existing size than it would be with the very much larger size that is proposed in the Services Committee's recommendation. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham talked about the huge weight of legislation pouring out from this Chamber and the Standing Committees and Select Committees. It is my understanding of my own party's policy—it has even been muttered by some Labour Members—that the pressure of legislation will be reduced Many of us want less Government, not more Government. Surely the amount of verbiage coming out of the Chamber and the Committees will be very much less. Surely the decision whether to adopt a larger format for Hansard is irrelevant because there will be less and less legislation and, therefore, reduced pressure on the Hansard reporters and Her Majesty's Stationery Office. When my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham was addressing the House a remark slipped out that perhaps epitomises the bureaucratic phobia in respect of metrication. There is no doubt that people are being carried away with metrication as they were carried away with decimalisation. It would be interesting to add up the cost of going metric at such a fast pace. It would be interesting to know how much it is costing the country. It is money that we can ill afford. I find the present size of Hansard ideal. It suits me as a Member. I am speaking as an individual Member. I understand that if there is a Division there will be a free vote on both sides of the House. The present Hansard is ideal for my use. I find it convenient for my bookshelves at home and in my office at Norman Shaw, North. I accept that the shelves can be adjusted. I find it convenient as it goes through my letter box at home. If the larger size were adopted, I wonder whether the tax man would be prepared to set against tax the cost involved of changing one's letter box.
I know that my hon. Friend is experienced in local government. What was his experience of the minutes of the local authority passing through his letter box? Mine came through perfectly easily.
My hon. Friend must have a large letter box. My copies were always placed on the doorstep. That is because my letter box was not large enough. I was a regular attender at the Shire Hall, Warwick, when I served as a member of Warwickshire County Council. Very often I would pick up my copies of the minutes and other documents on my frequent visits to the Shire Hall.The cost argument may hold some water but I believe that there are countervailing costs that can be set against that argument, costs that undermine the cost argument and the grounds that have been advanced by those who favour this change. I fully support the amendment that has been so ably moved by the hon. Member for Newham, South. If any change is necessary, its hould be made so that all parliamentary documents are of the same size as the existing Hansard. If there is a Division, I shall be happy to vote for the hon. Gentleman's amendment.
I went on the Services Committee as a convinced Conservative not only with a large "C" but with a small "c". Like my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), I like things that I am used to and I like to stick to them. During the proceedings of the Services Committee I asked questions against the background that I have described. I can only say that I was totally convinced that the new size that is proposed is the size that will enable the House to be best served.I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield has really read the evidence. My hon. Friend should have seen that there is no machine of modern technology that can produce the present size of Hansard and save money. The machine would have to be a one-off job. Everyone knows that such a machine will not be satisfactory.
My suits are always one-off jobs, and they are exceedingly satisfactory.
My suits have to be one-off because of my waistline, but that does not mean that in this case we do not have to build prototypes. We must also remember that in this instance there is a time limit.Perhaps it is not realised how close Hansard has come to breaking down, and we must remember that Hansard has given the House so much good service. It is not only a matter of replacing obsolete machinery. It must be replaced with machinery which has been tested and which is known to give a satisfactory performance. If we are to produce our publication with the aid of modern technology, this cannot be achieved with Hansard in its present size. There is no machine which can produce Hansard in its present size and which at the same time can achieve savings.
Has the hon. Gentleman seen Question No. 31, when an expert witness was asked whether it was not the fact that thousands, and indeed millions, of books were produced in the world in approximately the Hansard size by modern printing processes, and the answer by the expert was in the affirmative. The hon. Gentleman will also see from Appendix 3 of the Fourth Report that the figure in respect of "All Royal 8vo or all Large Royal 8vo" was£2·3 million capital cost against a cost of£1·86 million for printing on A4 size.
That evidence was given to us, and I understand that there is no machine in existence which can now produce the present size of Hansard, with the use of modern technology, which will save money. That surely is an important question when we are considering the taxpayers' interests.Furthermore, we must bear in mind the human element. There are men who work on Hansard who are under great stress. There are periods of time in which there is a tremendous rush and everybody is put under great strain. The Deliverer of the Vote has given evidence to this effect, and we know that the machinery for the publication of Hansard and other parliamentary papers on occasions has almost broken down. Those who have served on Standing Committees will know that Members are not always able to obtain copies of Hansard proceedings for previous sittings. I began as a convinced adherent of the present size of Hansard. However, I became completely convinced that we should change to the new format. We must think of those who work in the excellent printing press that provides our publications. We must give them this facility if they are to continue to serve the House as they do, to give us such excellent service and to see that our papers are up to date. This is a service of which the country can be proud. We can be proud of the fact that copies of Hansard appear on our breakfast tables with such regularity. But since that system is in danger of breaking down, we must move to fresh machinery and change to the new size. I repeat that that is my convinced opinion having previously opposed such a move.
I wish to remind my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that the Fourth Report makes clear that the Deliverer of the Vote wanted to maintain the achievement of the early delivery of Hansard and other parliamentary papers, including the Journal—not by 10 the next morning, but by the earlier hour of 7.30 a.m. I give that information in order to correct any misunderstanding which may have arisen from what my hon. Friend said regarding the excellent service which hon. Members are given by the St. Stephens Press in the many publications that issue from it.I wish to emphasise how greatly I recognise the excellence of the present service, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) agreed. I also wish to tell the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council that I have read the proceedings from the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) extremely carefully. If I hand my copy to the right hon. Gentleman, he will see that I have marked almost every paragraph in respect of certain criticisms on various points. I take this opportunity to thank the Select Committee for going into this matter so thoroughly under the chairmanship for part of the time of the Lord President, succeeded later by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Dr. Bennett). I am grateful that Members of that Committee are present for this debate, again showing their interest in this matter. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield that this matter is unimportant. Certainly the history of publishing the proceedings of the House of Commons is most important. Therefore, it does not matter whether we have one or more debates on this subject, but the matter must be decided by the House. We are grateful to the Committee for reporting to us and for giving its views.
Since the hon. Gentleman appears to have so much knowledge of the proposals in the report, will he say whether it is a slower process to produce the old form of Hansard compared with the production of the proposed publication?
It is not for me to try to speak with expert knowledge. I leave it to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President, to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) and to others to take on that role, but the report emphasises that the present machines are obsolete and as much as 16 years old. In printing terms that can be regarded as obsolescent. We are told that the printing demands have risen by a very high figure within recent years. Although the Hansard load has increased by 61 per cent., total printing by the Stationery Office has increased by as much as 500 per cent. Incidentally, it is a matter which the Government can put right by their own actions without having to repair deficiencies in the printing department.I was impressed by the detailed questions put to expert witnesses in the Select Committee. However, I do not think the Lord President was right this afternoon in his judgment and in his recommendation to the House. I appreciate that the Lord President has given much thought to this matter and has taken note of the Committee's findings, but I do not think that he has got the matter right. The Committee commented on the views of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, and it is clear that the Stationery Office officials have made up their mind. They have decided that there is a good case for printing Hansard on A4 paper. They are not concerned about the reader, or apparently about us as Members of Parliament who are their customers. They have taken no consumer test of Members of Parliament and others outside the House who comprise the consumers. There has been no consumer research or indeed production research. I do not deny that the Controller finds great advantage in moving to the larger size format, but the House has been asked by the Lord President to approve this change and twice the House has turned it down. The Select Committee has reconsidered the matter and we are grateful for its additional work. The evidence given by the Controller points to the fact that the basic reason for the proposed change is that the existing machines cannot cope with the job. Since the service is said to be at risk, the view is that we must take advantage of new technology and the Controller wishes to move to new computer composition and to photo-printing. So far so good. That is an excellent recommendation from the "production director" to the "sales director" as it were, but the sales director, if there were one in the Stationery Office, might reply "Ah, but I shall never be able to sell it to the customers". Obviously the Stationery Office officials managed to persuade the Committee and the Lord President that there are good production reasons for a change. But such reasons were not advanced by any other witnesses—the Librarian of the House, the Clerk of the House or the Principal Clerks. Nobody has said that this might be for the advantage of the reader. Yet I find a remarkable clue, which my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield has also found. We are moving into the metric world. Metrication has caught hold in this country in many areas where the public are not really aware that changes have been made, because of the momentum of metrication. I would dispute with the Lord President that it is essential to move to the A4 size for Hansard. It will reveal to him that I have read the report very carefully when I remind him that the Controller said just that. On page 2 I found the following very revealing remark. When asked about the move to the new size, the Controller said:
We see that the momentum of metrication has taken over the Stationery Office, and this afternoon it could take over the House and overrule the requirements of Members. I shall have much more to say about that later. I see that you appear restive, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I find this very interesting, and I hope that you will, too."I think that there has been a certain amount of misunderstanding here. It has been suggested by a number of people that if you move to the new technology it is absolutely essential to move to the A4 size for Hansard. This is not so. The reason why we want to move to A4 size—and it is, of course, for the House to decide whether we should do this, and I should like to emphasise that—is that the machines in the new technology are in standard commercial practice produced in metric sizes."
My only problem is that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has told the House that he never comes to the House before 10 o'clock, because otherwise he will not have a reasonable amount of sleep. I do not want him to be kept up too late tonight.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I must correct your assumption. I said that I did not read Hansard before 10 o'clock. I very often come to the House before 10 o'clock, but I have a great deal of work to do before I delve into the mysteries of Hansard.
I distinctly heard the hon. Gentleman refer to the number of hours of sleep that hon. Members needed. I think he alleged that if hon. Members came here before 10 o'clock in the morning they would be suffering from loss of sleep.
For a moment when my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield made his remark about not coming here before 10 o'clock I thought that he was speaking about coming at 10 o'clock at night, just to vote. But, on reflection, I know that he is not that type.Metrication seems to be spreading into many areas. The Stationery Office wants it, so the House must have it. What will the Lord President persuade us to have next—kilometres instead of miles, litres instead of pints? Let him try that on the country. He might get away with the present proposal, but not with those. Something else comes out in the small print. We are to have Hansard printed the size of the London telephone directory, though not as thick. That came out clearly in the evidence. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West, who is a pertinacious questioner on Cormmittees, particularly the Services Committee, put an innocent sounding question to, I think, the Controller. He asked what sort of work the St. Stephens Press would obtain when the House was in recess and there were no debates. The answer—I paraphrase—was "We hope to get work printing telephone directories". Which assumes the greatest priority in the eyes of the Controller and those who work for him—the work to be done in the recess and the suitability the new technology and the new printing press for the printing of the London telephone directories and perhaps others, or producing journals of the House in a way suitable to the House and most acceptable to Members? The Controller is properly anxious to get Hansard and the other journals for which he is responsible to the House on to a commercial footing. He wants to save money on printing and paper. He wants to buy standard machines off the peg. It is more convenient for him and for the Stationery Office to do so. He said in paragraph 28,
Will it? How very interesting!Therefore, we must go over to what the printing industry now wants. Parliament is having a little pressure from outside to adopt a new procedure because it is more convenient for the machines and the people that produce this service to the House. The recording of the history of the House must be changed to look more like a standard London telephone directory or the London Gazette. Who wants to carry round a London Gazette? I know that the Lord President said that he often read the Spectator in bed at night. I notice that he said the Spectator and not the New Statesman. A remarkable change has happened to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not take only one Hansard. I invariably have two or three."The printing industry will gradually go over to the 'A' sizes".
What about Playboy?
It might be convenient for me to carry something like Playboy or Private Eye, which are about the A4 size. I cannot recall what Playboy looks like, but I know what Private Eye looks like. The Economist is the same size, which is quite convenient for a weekly journal and for a newspaper. We know that the Lord President has experience of newspaper production—mostly tabloids—but this place does not want a tabloid. We do not want something like The Economist, the New Statesman or the Spectator. We want a book, a journal, something to read, not something such as the London telephone directory to put on a shelf. The telephone directory is a very convenient size to be referred to occasionally or to ask a secretary to refer to occasionally.If the printing industry finds it so convenient to move to standard machines because it will help the industry—though it may not help us, the customers—will it determine the size of the next edition of Shakespeare, the next edition of the Bible or the latest novel by Mr. Graham Greene or Mr. Kingsley Amis? Will they be printed in the London telephone directory format and style because it suits the standard machines, the only ones that appear to be readily available to printing presses throughout the country? I do not think so. Shall we have the next eagerly-awaited memoirs from former occupants of Downing Street or other retired Cabinet Ministers on A4? I doubt it very much, because of a phrase used by the Librarian, who spoke about "user acceptability" in evidence to the Committee. That is a good phrase, which means "what the customer is prepared to take". I do not think that the customer is prepared to take this new inconvenient size. Mr. Hansard, who started the printing of the House of Commons journals and reports of debates and proceedings, must have learned something about user acceptability. It was not because he was conservative that he did not change the size—the standard, roughly average book size—that is so convenient for the reporting of our proceedings. He never altered that page size and it was never altered by his successors who carried on the printing.Hansard is not a weekly newspaper. It is not a newspaper at all. It is not even a weekly magazine. Hansard is a journal, a book to be read—not a directory to be left on a shelf. Hansard has not been going so very long. It is remarkable to realise that it began only in 1829—incidentally with no State aid. In 1855, when Mr. Hansard made so many losses that his publication was kept going by Members paying subscriptions along with clubs and public institutions, the Stationery Office agreed to take 100 copies. It needed them for the India Office, the Colonies and other Government Departments.
Was it because of its non-acceptability to its customers that Mr. Hansard went broke and could not sell his publication?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to develop my argument. That was certainly not the reason. There were differences of opinion about how and when and even whether Hansard should be read by distinguished statesmen of the past. In those days—I do not wish to weary the House—it was often thought that the monarch should not know what was going on in this place. That is why the printing of our proceedings was not started until such a late date, 1878. That is not 100 years ago. That is when the Government gave the Hansard company a small subsidy of£3,000 which they increased to£6,000 two years later. Two years afterwards Mr. Hansard formed another company called the Hansard Publishing Union which had to rely not only on subscriptions but on advertisements to pay its way. I find that a remarkable piece of history. I am glad that there is no suggestion from the Select Committee that Hansard might pay its way and save us money by taking advertisements. The Hansard Publishing Union did not last long. It had gone broke within a year.The object during the early days of the printing of our proceedings by Hansard was never a commercial one. It was never intended to make it a commercial success. The idea was to report Parliament in a manner acceptable to Members and others who wanted to read our proceedings and to study the making of history in this place. Disraeli was a great reader of Hansard. He gave some advice to a new Member of Parliament, John Pope Hennessy. His advice dealt with how to get on as a new Member. It was:
There is no one present from the Liberal Party but I have to say that Gladstone refused to have Hansard in his house. Parliament left the reporting of its proceedings as late as 1878 because it begrudged the expenditure. Let us not be so small-minded and produce a document, a journal, that is inappropriate for the job it has to do. Let us not fall for these arguments and statements from the Stationery Office—affected by some form of metrication madness—which tell the House how our proceedings should be reported and in so doing determine the attention and interest that will be shown for the report. My digression on Mr. Hansard in some ways stems from the fact that one of his descendants is a constituent of mine, who possesses many papers which Mr. Hansard produced and which I lodged in the Library some years ago. Mr. Luke Hansard, and subsequently, his son and grandson, knew more about readership than the Stationery Office. I want Hansard to be read, not filed away as a dusty directory on some shelf. I have been looking at some of the other documents available as commentaries on the political scene in this country and in the United States. One distinguished United States publication, "Foreign Affairs" is slightly smaller than Hansard. It is a book about the thickness of Hansard. "International Affairs" published by Chatham House is almost exactly the same size as Hansard. A new publication from Black wells in Oxford, the "Journal of Common Market Studies" is almost exactly the same shape and size as Hansard. Another foreign affairs commentary, "The Round Table" is also the same size. I do not accept the recommendation of the Lord President. I support the hon. Member for Newham, South."When the House is sitting be always in your place. When it is not, read Hansard."
I have enjoyed listening to my hon. friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). I hope he will not mind my saying that I found the bits of his speech not intended to be serious most amusing. In addition I have learned much about Mr. Hansard. When we talk about the acceptability of the Official Report let us remember that when it was an unofficial report it was not acceptable to this House. Let us not think, just because we have had something around for maybe only 130 years, that we cannot change it. All sorts of things change in this House. A good example was the dress worn by hon. Members yesterday at the ceremony in Westminster Hall. I deprecate some of the clothes that people came in while, no doubt, others would do the same about my clothes today.My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury mentioned publications of roughly the same size as Hansard but he has not named one which is printed overnight so that hon. Members can read it the next morning. That is an important point to remember. It is something which comes out clearly in the Select Committee Report. I came to this controversy in the first of the three debates we have had and I shall try to avoid repeating my earlier remarks in what was I hope a modest but useful speech.
It was a brief speech.
It was certainly brief. There are, however, new points which need to be taken up. One concerns this question of saving£170,000 a year in running costs which would result from the standardisation of House of Commons papers. That is worth about£250 a year for a Member of Parliament. I can think of plenty of better ways in which that money could be used by individual Members rather than preserving a scattering of paper sizes and saying that we must maintain the present size of Hansard.I remember taking part in the Committee stage on some opposed Private Bills in which we not only had to wrestle with great maps of East Anglia but also had the minutes of the previous day's hearing. If I remember correctly, they were on foolscap. I do not believe that any hon. Member in the past two years has raised a proposal to reduce the size of those minutes to the size of those minutes to the size of Hansard. I have raised with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) the question of local authority minutes. I have two sets of such minutes which come through my perfectly standard letter box. One set of minutes comes from the London borough of Greenwich, which I represent, and the other from the London borough of Lambeth, where I live. There is never any difficulty in getting these through the letter box. The only publication which causes difficulty, and which means that occasionally that my postman has to knock, is the weekly edition of Hansard. This sometimes happens when we have had a few all-night sittings. It is clear that if we had a larger format for Hansard its thickness would be reduced and, given a Post Office approved letter box, there would be no difficulty in the weekly edition gaining admittance to my home. It is on grounds of acceptability to my letter box and acceptability in terms of costs that I support the Lord President's proposal. The amendment represents one of those vain wishes that occasionally surfaces in this House when people seek to return to great glories and wish to be idiosyncratic. I may be doing a disservice in terms of motive to those who have opposed the proposal, but it seems typical of a failing that we have. We half permit ourselves to become efficient and provide a good service but suddenly we draw back and, in this case, say "Gosh it means going to A4—metrication." We fail to look at our post each morning. I conducted a survey this morning and discovered that four out of five of the envelopes that I received contained pieces of paper of A4 size. I did not ask the Post Office to return them to the senders because I only wanted to receive documents of large crown octavo size, for instance.
In our amendment we are suggesting a change—if there is to be a change—to a standardisation of size which would assist speedy delivery and save£90,000 a year. That is a constructive suggestion and does not represent a yearning for tradition itself.
If that is the case I am pleased to withdraw my remarks. Is the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) saying that the inconvenience is worth£250 for each hon. Member? If he is saying that he has a curious idea about convenience.I have on my desk telephone books, copies of Hansard and minutes of Private Bills and correspondence. I do not find Hansard particularly convenient. It is difficult to carry on one's person unless one has a poacher's pocket. The crucial element seems to be receiving Hansard early enough next morning to see what the Prime Minister said or did not say at Question Time, or to see reports of what the Lord President said or did not say at Ashfield. That is more important than having to wait for something which is not as convenient as A4—bearing in mind that we shall be spending£250 a year for each hon. Member that we do not need to spend.
I thought that the Leader of the House would come back with a recommendation that we should continue with the present size of Hansard. I was therefore surprised at the Government's proposal. The acceptability of a copy of Hansard to the letter-box of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) is not the right test for deciding the size of Hansard. I do not doubt that my hon. Friend's letter-box is capacious enough to take all sizes—metric and imperial. Surely the important issue is the acceptability of Hansard to hon. Members and members of the public who buy it.
It is not a question of this being a Government proposal. It is a recommendation of the Services Committee and of all parties and hon. Members who sit upon that Committee.
I appreciate that. I understood that the Lord President was commending the recommendation. To that extent presumably it has the support of the Government. I suspect that the payroll voters will come to vote with the Government when the bells ring. To that extent it is a Government proposal.In our last debate my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury), who appeared to have a considerable knowledge of the subject, suggested that the throughput of parliamentary business was large enough to justify the purchase of new machines that were made to measure to the parliamentary preference. I do not see why preference should not prevail. Why should we not prefer one size to another? This is just one more step in the bad process by which consumer choice is limited to that which machines can conveniently produce. In all departments of life one finds that economies of production are presented as a boon to the consumer when they actually limit choice. One could say that it is an example of Hutber's law—"better means worse." I do not mind what is the size of the daily Hansard. I am more concerned about the size of the bound Hansard. It would be a great shame if we were to have the bound Hansard in the new size. I imagine that most hon. Members, like myself, take the bound volumes and have them in their homes. Suddenly to jump up to the new size would be most disfiguring as well as inconvenient because it would be too large. One does not want books of that size. Even the present size is on the large side. It is not easy to hold in the hand. One almost needs a book-rest unless one lays it flat on a desk. To go bigger than that, to the size of a telephone directory, would create more problems. It would be like going back to Henry's Commentary if one expected people to read things of that magnitude today. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) will deal with why we cannot have new machinery made for us, with all the economies that would go with that. It would be possible and practicable to have machines of the size that we want and to achieve the economy of the standardisation of our printed papers. That disposes of the £250 that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) mentioned. There is economy in the amendment. The figure given by the hon. Member is the figure that would be involved if the situation remained as it is.
The economy I mentioned was the difference between standardising on the Hansard size and standardising on the A4 size. About£150,000 is involved in running costs but there is an additional saving of between£165,000 and£175,000 by moving to A4 rather than standardising on the Hansard size.
It is difficult to see why it should be cheaper, on a running basis, to use that size rather than the other. I can see that the initial charge for machinery—if we request a special size to be made—might be more. But I cannot understand why the running costs should be more. I suspect that statistic.Why cannot we have the machines that we want? The enormous throughput of our parliamentary business is large enough to sustain special machines. If the Stationery Office wants recess business to finance the undertaking it will be in a splendid competitive position if it is one of the few printers that can offer publications in the size that is wanted. The Office would be able to charge rubies and diamonds for that service.
Many thousands of machines print journals or books approximately the size of Hansard. They are automatic machines. We would have no difficulty in producing a new high quality journal of that size.
I am sure that that is true. I am not an expert, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Hove, but he indicated that view in our last debate. I cannot imagine the situation to be otherwise. It is extraordinary.I am sorry to suspect ulterior motives, but I cannot but believe that this has something to do with the great old campaign in favour of metrication for its own sake. I equit the Leader of the House of any obsession with metrication or, indeed, of supporting any of the Common Market fallacies and follies. We know that he is sound on these matters. However, perhaps he is the mouthpiece of others who are less wisely inspired than he. Perhaps he is the unconscious cat's-paw for evil men. It is a great shame that we should be having this debate on the day on which the county councils elections are being held. Hon. Members on the Back Benches who are very much concerned in this matter are absent, with the result that it will be decided by the payroll vote.
That is why it is being held today.
I very much hope not. However, that is the effect. On the last occasion that we discussed this subject, we had a general sentiment on the Back Benches of hon. Members who did not want this change and said so. We now have the concluding debate when they are all in their constituencies campaigning, and the matter will be decided by people who come in when the Division bells ring and do not know whether they are voting about the size of Hansard or about additional sanctions on Rhodesia.I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West will satisfy me on these anxieties and explain why we cannot have the size that we want.
The Services Committee is certainly no cat's-paw. Looking at its membership, I am sure that any reasonable man will agree that it is composed of individuals with very strongly held and diverse views.I do not know whether I shall be able to satisfy my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), but I have noted his points and I shall endeavour to answer all of them. We have this debate in peak parliamentary time, taking precedence over sport and recreation—
It is not a matter for shame. It is protected by a unique business motion that any time taken on this subject shall be made up on sport and recreation. However, I suspect that these two subjects have run one into the other. Any report of the Services Committee reaching the House for debate seems to be a subject for sport and recreation. The Services Committee makes no great complaint about that. Its members are the servants of the House, and I speak as a member of the Committee representing those Opposition Members who sit on the Committee, but I do so in no party political or official capacity. We are Members of the House who serve on that Committee.I shall not dwell upon what people outside this House will be thinking, with the President of the United States about to arrive in London. I imagine him asking the Prime Minister, after he has been to the rest room or whatever a President does when he first arrives, "By the way, what is happening in the House of Commons?" and the Prime Minister replying "They are doing something very important, Mr. President, Sir. They are debating the size of Hansard for the third time, after which they will be going on to dis., cuss sport and recreation." I shall not speculate on what will be the President's reaction to that. However, I have no doubt that this debate will boost the sales of the Official Report, about which we have been talking. On the subject of public interest, there is one matter about which, on behalf of the Services Committee, I must put the record straight. The Norman Shaw building has been referred to in this debate. It is true that the north block of that building was done up—"refurbished", to use Mr. Annenberg's immortal word—as the Architectural Heritage Year, Europe pièce de résistance by the Department of the Environment in a rather lavish fashion. It embarrassed right hon. and hon. Members to find following a Press conference held by the Department, without inviting the Services Committee, that we were the inheritors of all this splendid work. But on the Committee we are ever conscious of our financial responsibilities, so that, when at last it was possible for the other part of Scotland Yard, Norman Shaw South, to be made available to the House, we had from the Government a statement that the south block could be available to the House but with a cash limit of£200,000 to cover the next two financial years. I have done my best all day to get hold of Mr. Anthony Bevins of the Daily Mail who, in an article in his paper yesterday, wrote
I hope that he sees the report of this debate and that he publishes as prominent a correction as possible to the effect that we are to have£200,000 spread over two years to provide facilities for hon. Members in the other part of the Norman Shaw building. It is against that sort of enthusiasm for economy that the Services Committee is operating, we hope for the benefit of the House as a whole. I suppose that I might be allowed one allusion en passant to a work of art which appeared in New Palace Yard in time for the Queen's visit yesterday. That has been subscribed for and paid for by private Members of all parties in the House, and I hope that, if the newspapers are interested, they will report that aspect of the matter. I come to the questions asked by hon. Members in the debate. Everyone has been passionate about some of the inaccuracies which have appeared outside in relation to our efforts. I do not want to disagree passionately or to raise the temperature when dealing with the reasonable arguments of hon. Members. They cannot all be on the Services Committee. I do not think that many of them really want to be on the Committee. We have before us every problem under the sun, and we have to decide a great number of matters. We make reports about the more contentious ones, and the more interesting reports are debated in the House. I do not want to detain the House very long in trying to answer some of the questions which have been asked, and I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I run their speeches into one composite. The real point about the proposal in the Select Committee's Report is that, in order to maintain a service which is at present being produced by the Stationery Office printers under immense strain, we must have modern machinery. Speed of delivery is absolutely crucial in this matter. I have a sheaf of notes, and I could have made a quite entertaining reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). However, I shall not take up all that he said, and certainly I shall not ask him what he does in the early morning. The really important matter is that we should get Hansard available for distribution at the earliest possible moment. I am sure that I carry all hon. Members with me if I say that, when I talk of the early delivery of Hansard for distribution, quite apart from when it reaches hon. Members or the Vote Office, it is vital that it reaches Government Departments. Every hon. Member complains that Government Departments do not take enough notice of the proceedings of this House. I hope that the Whitehall Mandarins have copies of Hansard delivered to their homes. I also hope that, as the underlings arrive at their offices, they find on their desks every morning clean copies of Hansard waiting for them to digest."MPs get their£3 million offices."
We agree about a great deal of this—perhaps more than the House suspects—but does the hon. Gentleman accept that the support which my right hon. Friend the Lord President adduced for this proposal from the Officers of the House was for the new machinery and for standardisation and better speed, and not necessarily for A4? Did the Services Committee get an estimate from the Stationery Office about the difference in delivery times between standardisation on A4 and on royal octavo? If not, why not?
I cannot answer that. But it was not pressure from the Officers of the House saying "Let us change to a bigger size". The Officers of the House are conservative, as most of us are. No one likes changing traditions to which we are accustomed. What the Officers of the House wanted was an efficient service.
We all do.
I hope that the House will seize upon one childishly simple point which no one can fail to understand. It is that a small page size results in more pages, and it follows that they are more difficult to put together and get ready for distribution. It means that, to be efficient, Hansard must have the largest possible page size.
If the size was as big as a bed sheet, Hansard could be printed on very few pages.
The sheets on the bed size would probably be inconvenient for my right hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr., Crouch) because he spends his time in bed reading Hansard. He has immortalised himself. He is the one Member of Parliament in history who reads Hansard in bed—and not just one volume, because he said that he takes three volumes to bed with him. He came to stay at my house but I did not notice him prowling round the house in the middle of the night looking for a volume of Hansard to read in bed. Indeed he was guilty—and we know this because dust was moved from volumes of books in the Tudor room where he slept—of reading books which were of A4 size.I have here a specimen of an A4 size bound volume. There will be no need in future for the bound volumes of Hansard to be that nauseous pale blue. We shall be able to have dark green if we wish, and because the page size is larger we shall be able to hold it better. It is a more attractive volume to handle. It need not be so thick, although containing the same amount of talk and the same number of metres of words. Here it is. This book was supplied to me by the Library—and I believe the Librarians have a sense of humour because it is about the next subject for debate. Nevertheless, it is a specimen of the proposed size and it does not seem so unreasonable. There are many other points that I could make, but I am sure that the House would like me to come to a conclusion. However, I must deal with the question about telephone directories. The answer is that the Parliamentary Press will not be allowed to print telephone directories in its spare time if I or the Lord President have anything to do with it, because there will be no spare time if it is managed properly. If we standardise, more parliamentary papers can be printed by a proper and efficient plant under Parliament's own control and the plant will not have time for telephone directories.
Can my hon. Friend assure the House that he did not receive the impression from the Controller of the Stationery Office that the Controller had at the back of his mind, as an important factor, the point that it would be good for the Stationery Office if he could obtain the printing of telephone directories in the recess? Can we have an assurance that that did not govern the decision on the size of Hansard?
That is not the point. We want the presses to be employed and there would be slack capacity for printing things other than for Parliament only if Parliament put such restrictions on the Stationery Office as some hon. Members have suggested.We have spent a long time on an apparently mundane subject—although we have had our entertainments this afternoon. However, we should come to a conclusion. Nobody could be more conservative than me or more anxious to preserve the hallowed traditions of Parliament. Long may Hansard continue, but in an improved and more efficient form. I therefore commend the Services Committee's Report to the House.
I dare say that the House does not want me to say any more but I must add just one sentence. I do not give a damn about metrication—as has been rightly surmised—nor am I concerned, in this instance, in seeing new technology advanced. I am concerned solely with ensuring that we obtain the best possible service for the House.I think that the proposed new size of Hansard is an improvement on the old, but that is a matter of taste and we could go on arguing about it until the crack of doom without arriving at a final conclusion. I do not believe that any inconvenience to the House will result from the change but if, after this third attempt, the House abandons the idea of accepting these proposals, which have been carefully worked out and examined afresh, and instead accepts the amendment there will be a serious deterioration in the service to the House. We shall be neglecting the advice of those who have gone into the matter carefully. I do not believe that experts should have the final word in these matters. The final word should be had by the amateurs in the House. That is the purpose of this place—that occasionally proper amateur judgment should be brought to bear on the follies of the experts. However, that is not the situation here. If we neglect this advice from the Services Committee—advice that hon. Members of all parties have accumulated from experts who have been subjected to cross-examination of a detailed character—in the foreseeable future there will be a grave deterioration in the service that provides these documents to the House. If the House votes in that way the responsibility for the result will be on its own head. The Services Committee has discharged its responsibilities properly. It has carried out exactly what the House required upon the last occasion that this was debated and it has brought back its report. I therefore urge the House, with all my strength, to adopt what we are proposing, not for any sinister reasons but because it is the best way to serve the interests of all hon. Members and of all those who depend on the proper production of Hansard.
My right hon. Friend is putting a charge on those who support the amendment. We are in favour of new machinery and speedy production and we are purely concerned about the matter of size. As the Chairman of the Services Committee, could my right hon. Friend tell the House how many hours a Crown edition would arrive after an A4 edition of Hansard? Is he saying that there would be a breakdown? Surely there is no difference in the matter other than that of size. What is my right hon. Friend worried about?
If my hon. Friend reads the whole report again he will find the full answer. The reply was also given today by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke). The time taken depends on the amount of stitching that must be done. The amount of work involved in a book volume—if one can describe Hansard in that way—depends on the size of the pages and the number of words on a page. Therefore, having fewer words on a page means that more stitching must be done. That would contribute to the difficulties in providing Hansard and the extra printing that must be done to accommodate the increasing demands of the House. In his question and his speech today my hon. Friend has neglected all the evidence on that matter.There is now much more printing to be done if the standard of services that we have enjoyed in the past is to be maintained. If that evidence is rejected there will soon be a grave deterioration in the service to the House. There will be more occasions when I, and future Leaders of the House, will have to come here to explain that there has been a hold up. If that happens the responsibility will rest upon those who rejected the united view of the Select Committee on this matter.
Is the right hon. Gentleman charging the House not to criticise recommendations of the Select Committee? Is he rejecting the view that has been sincerely expressed in the House—that we do not want a directory?
I am not rejecting the right of the House to criticise. Nobody could conceivably accuse me of doing so. I have explained to the House today and on previous occasions that we understand its views. On the last occasion the House did not accept what the Services Committee recommended and asked for further evidence, information and a fresh consideration of the matter. That is what the Services Committee has done. The hon. Member for Bristol, West, the other Members of the Services Committee and I have carried out meticulously and faithfully what we were asked to do by the House following the criticisms that were made on the last occasion. Whether other Members of the Committee agree with me or not, that is my judgment.If, having gone through all these procedures, the House rejects our recommendations, I repeat, as solemnly as I can, that the House of Commons will make a prize ass of itself and will condemn the House in future months or years to a deterioration of its services. If that happens, the responsibility will rest on hon. Members who reject the recommendations. I know that they do not want that result, but it is my judgment and, I believe, the judgment of those who have listened to the evidence given by all those who serve the House that this will happen. I do not believe for a moment that the evidence given by HMSO, the Librarian or the Editor of Hansard was given for
Division No. 121]
|Bell, Ronald||Fookes, Miss Janet||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Glyn, Dr Alan||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Goodhart, Philip||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Blaker, Peter||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Brooke, Peter||Gray, Hamish||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Buck, Antony||Grylls, Michael||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hall, Sir John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Carmichael, Neil||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Sproat, lain|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hooson, Emlyn||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Hordern, Peter||Stokes, John|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Costain, A. P.||Lawson, Nigei||Summerskiil. Hon Dr Shirley|
|Crouch, David||MacGregor. John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Marten, Neil||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Molyneaux, James||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Monro, Hector||Torney, Tom|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Osborn, John|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|English, Michael||Page, Richard (Workington)||Mr. Leslie Spriggs and|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Mr. Nicholas Winterton.|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Bates, Alf||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Benyon, W.||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Roper, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Lipton, Marcus||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||McElhone, Frank||Stott, Roger|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Macfarlane, Nell||Strang, Gavin|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Marks, Kenneth||Watt, Hamish|
|Davidson, Arthur||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wells, John|
|Dormand, J. D.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Faulds, Andrew||Newton, Tony||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Parker, John|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Penhaligon, David|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Hawkins, Paul||Perry, Ernest||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Henderson, Douglas||Prior, Rt Hon James||Dr. Reginald Bennett.|
Question accordingly agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put:—
Division No. 122]
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Drayson, Burnaby||Hordern, Peter|
|Bell, Ronald||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||English, Michael||Lawson, Nigel|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fairbairn, Nicholas||MacGregor, John|
|Brooke, Peter||Flannery, Martin||Marten, Neil|
|Buck, Antony||Fookes, Miss Janet||Mendelson, John|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Glyn, Dr Alan||Molyneaux, James|
|Canavan, Dennis||Goodhart, Philip||Monro, Hector|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Goodhew, Victor||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Costain, A. P.||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Percival, Ian|
|Crouch, David||Gray, Hamish||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Hall, Sir John||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hooson, Emlyn||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
their own convenience. It was given because they serve the House and their evidence shows that they have considered these matters. They have asked the House to give them the power to serve us better. If we reject that request, the responsibility will be on our own heads.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 63, Noes 53.
The House divided: Ayes 53, Noes 55.
|Robinson, Geoffrey||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Rose, Paul B.||Stradling Thomas, J.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Mr. Leslie Spriggs and|
|Spearing, Nigel||Tapsell, Peter||Mr. Nicholas Winterton.|
|Sproat, lain||Torney, Tom|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Roes, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Bates, Alf||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Roper, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Lipton, Marcus||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||McElhone, Frank||Stott, Roger|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Macfarlane, Neil||Strang, Gavin|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Marks, Kenneth||Watt, Hamish|
|Davidson, Arthur||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutstord)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wells, John|
|Dormand, J. D.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Newton, Tony||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Parker, John|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central File)||Penhaligon, David|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Harrison, Walter [Wakefield]||Perry, Ernest||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Hawkins, Paul||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Dr. Reginald Bennett.|
|Henderson, Douglas||Rathbone, Tim|
Question accordingly negatived.